Throughout much of the regular season, the Joliet Slammers and Washington Wild Things battled to see which team would win the Frontier League’s East Division title.
When the 96-game schedule was complete, the two teams were tied for first place in the division with the league-best 54-42 records, but Washington won the tiebreaker between the two and headed into the four-team playoffs as the top seed, while Joliet was seeded third.
Manager Jeff Isom’s squad won games No. 4 and No. 5 of their division series at River City over the weekend, and they now get one more chance to get the better of the Wild Things when it counts the most by winning their first Frontier League championship since their debut in 2011. Washington advanced after winning three straight games over Evansville.
Washington hosts the first two games in the best-of-five series, beginning at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. The teams will play at the same time Wednesday, and Thursday will be a travel or rain day.
The first game of the finals at Joliet Route 66 Stadium will be at 7:05 p.m. Friday. Game No. 4 will be at 6:05 p.m.Saturday in Joliet, if needed. And if the series goes the full five games, the finale would take place at 7:05 p.m. Monday in Washington.
The division rivals, who haven’t played each another in over a month, met 12 times during the regular season, with Washington going 4-2 at home, while Joliet settled for a
3-3 split at home. The Wild Things’ 7-5 advantage in head-to-head games played gave them the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Washington is playing its first Frontier League championship series since 2007, when it lost to Windy City. They also lost in their other trip to the finals in 2002 to Richmond. That was their first year in Washington and Isom was their manager that season. In their original setting as the Canton Crocodiles, they beat Evansville for the league title in 1997.
The Wild Things are led offensively (regular season statistics) by Hector Roa (.309, 12 home runs, 69 RBIs), James Harris (.305, 16 home runs, 64 RBIs), Roman Collins (.298, 65 RBIs) and Kyle Pollock (56 RBIs). Washington is managed by Gregg Langbehn.
Top pitchers for the Wild Things include Zach Strecker (6-5, 21 saves, 1.48 ERA), Thomas Dorminy (9-5, 2.44 ERA), Trevor Bradley (4-3, 3.33 ERA), Michael Austin (3-3) and Chase Cunningham (7-6). Dorminy’s ERA was the best in the league during the regular season.
Leading the way for the Slammers (regular season statistics) are Trenton Hill (.330, 47 RBIs), L.J. Kalawaia (.300), Justin Garcia (23 home runs, 75 RBIs), Danny Zardon (60 RBIs), Ridge Hoopii-Haslam (49 RBIs) and Travis Bolin (46 RBIs).
On the mound, Joliet is led by Nate Antone (1.25 ERA), Corey Kimber (6-6, 2.50 ERA), Liam O’Sullivan (11-4, 3.14 ERA), Keegan Long (nine saves, 2.78 ERA), Andrew Zellner (3.37 ERA), Daren Osby (7-3, 3.50), Scot Hoffman (8-5, 3.51) and Isaac Sanchez (nine saves).