First Half Pennant Races in Final Stretch
The half-way point of the Atlantic League season is rapidly approaching. With a 132-game Championship Schedule in 2022, 66 games will mark the halfway mark. That point will occur with the conclusion of games on July 4.
As of the start of mid-week series on June 21, most clubs have already completed 52 or 53 games, leaving just 13 or 14 games to play in the first half. The first half pennant winner from both the South and North Divisions will comprise two of the four postseason playoff teams.
Southern Maryland (41-12) has been a dominant team in the first half, posting a 41-12 record and opening a 13-game lead over second place Long Island (27-24) in the North. The Blue Crabs are currently riding an eight game winning streak but have previously posted winning streaks of 12 and seven games and have lost back-to-back contests just three times.
The Blue Crabs have a magic number of two, meaning any combination of two Southern Maryland wins and/or two Long Island losses will give the Blue Crabs the first half North pennant. Southern Maryland is 15-3 in June, the best mark in either division for the month. And that comes after a 19-8 mark in May and a 7-1 April record. Southern Maryland starts a three-game series at Staten Island on Tuesday (June 21) before returning home to face Gastonia on the weekend.
Southern Maryland is playing at an elite level. With 41 wins and 13 games remaining, the Blue Crabs could make a run at the best half-season in league history. That record currently belongs to the Somerset Patriots who went 50-20 (.714) in the first half of the 2015 season. Only 10 teams have ever won 45 or more games in a half-season and Southern Maryland could add to that number. Somerset's .714 winning percentage in a half-season is also the standard. The Blue Crabs are currently at .774.
The South first half race has been a tighter affair with both Gastonia and High Point spending significant time in first place. The Honey Hunters have 14 games remaining and have a 6.5 game lead over the Rockers, who have 13 contests left.
Gastonia (36-16) dropped its season-opener but then ripped off 10 straight wins to take command of the South. After a 7-1 April, the ‘Hunters went 16-10 in May while High Point (30-23) stayed hot, going 20-6. At the start of play on June 1, High Point was 27-9 and held a three-game lead over Gastonia (24-12).
But June has not been kind to High Point. The Rockers are just 4-14 while Gastonia’s 12-5 record this month is second only to Southern Maryland’s 15-3. Gastonia’s magic number is a combination of eight wins and/or Rockers’ losses in order to earn the first playoff appearance in the franchise’s young history.
The Honey Hunters open play on Tuesday at home with Charleston and then visit Southern Maryland on the weekend. High Point is at Long Island for the mid-week games and returns home to face Lexington on the weekend. The Rockers will only have one more game with Gastonia in the first half as the two clubs meet in Gastonia on July 4, the final day of the first half.
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