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Atlantic League Championship Series Preview

Atlantic League of Professional Baseball League Championship Series Preview
North Division Champion Lancaster Barnstormers (62-62) vs. South Division Champion Gastonia Honey Hunters (79-47)

Matchup (Best of 5 series)

  • Game 1, Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 p.m. EDT: Gastonia (Zak Westcott 1-2, 6.43) at Lancaster (Brent Teller 11-6, 5.69) (Clipper Magazine Stadium)
  • Game 2, Wednesday, September 27, 6:30 p.m. EDT: Gastonia (Brett Daniels 7-1, 2.18)  at Lancaster (Matt Swarmer 4-3, 3.69) (Clipper Magazine Stadium)
  • Game 3, Friday, September 29, 6:35 p.m.: Lancaster at Gastonia (CaroMont Health Park)
  • Game 4, Saturday, September 30, 6:35 p.m.: Lancaster at Gastonia (CaroMont Health Park)
  • Game 5, Sunday, October 1, 3:35 p.m. EDT: Lancaster at Gastonia (CaroMont Health Park)
  • The two teams split the season series 5-5 with Lancaster going 2-1 at Gastonia and the Honey Hunters with a 4-3 record at Lancaster.
  • Lancaster was 37-27 at home and 25-35 on the road. Gastonia was 44-22 at home, the most home wins in the league, and 35-25 away, the second-most road wins in the league.
  • Gastonia’s CaroMont Health Park allowed the second-most homers in the league in 2023 at 181. Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium had the third-fewest homers with 135. Gastonia led the ALPB with 109 home runs at home. Lancaster was eighth with 58. Gastonia’s 111 road home runs were the league-high while Lancaster’s 54 road homers ranked 10th.
  • This is the first postseason meeting between Lancaster and Gastonia.

History

  • Gastonia, a member of the Atlantic League since 2021, is making its first trip to the League Championship Series. The Honey Hunters lost in the South Division Series to High Point in 2022 and then turned the tables on the Rockers in 2023. Gastonia is 5-5 all-time in ALPB postseason games.
  • Lancaster is the defending ALPB Champion, having swept High Point in three games in 2023. The Barnstormers are 30-14 in ALPB postseason appearances and are in the playoffs for the eighth time. In League Championship Series, Lancaster is 11-3 having won three of its four LCS appearances. The Barnstormers were ALPB Champions in 2006, 2014 and 2022.
  • Lancaster will attempt to become the first ALPB club in over a decade to win back-to-back ALPB titles. Only Somerset (2008-09), York (2010-11) and Long Island (2012-13) have repeated as champions.
  • The last two teams trying to win back-to-back titles were unsuccessful in doing so: Sugar Land in 2019 and Long Island in 2021.

How they got here

  • For the second straight year, Lancaster won the North Division second-half championship, going 37-24 after a fourth place first-half finish at 25-38. The Barnstormers were 62-62 over the full season.
  • Gastonia is the Wild Card entry in the playoffs, having gone 79-47 for the full season. Gastonia had an identical record to High Pont in the South Division first-half race but lost out on a tiebreaker. The Honey Hunters and Rockers were co-champs in the South second-half race.
  • Lancaster swept Long Island to win the North Division, having outhit the Ducks .255 to .208. Lancaster clinched its spot in the League Championship Series following a Game 3 win on Friday, Sept. 22. Lancaster won by scores of 9-5, 5-1 and 7-2.
  • Gastonia is coming off a draining five-game series win over High Point in which the Honey Hunters triumphed in Games 2, 3 and 5, finishing on Monday, September 25. Four of the five games were decided by three runs or fewer. Starters Gunnar Kines and Zach Mort each threw significant innings in the clinching Game 5 win over High Point on Monday and may not be available until the series swings back to Gastonia on Friday, Sept. 29.

Offense

  • Lancaster led the Atlantic League with a .290 team batting average in 2023. Gastonia was fifth at .270.
  • The Barnstormers have the league leader in RBI (Andretty Cordero with 116), on-base percentage (Melvin Mercedes at .444) and base hits (Cordero, 166).
  • Joseph Carpenter led the Barnstormers with 16 homers this season, one more than Andretty Cordero.
  • Gastonia has three active players with more homers than Carpenter, in Braxton Davidson (25), Zach Jarrett (25) and David Washington (22).
  • Lancaster led the ALPB with 207 stolen bases. Gastonia, which set the league mark for swipes last year, stole 162 in 2023.
  • Gastonia’s 220 home runs in 2023 are the most-ever by an ALPB team. The Barnstormers were 10th in the league with 112 home runs.
  • The Honey Hunters were second in the ALPB in runs scored with 797 (6.38 per game). Lancaster was fifth in runs scored with 730 (5.89).
  • Lancaster led the league with 33 sac bunts. Gastonia had 15.

Pitching

  • Gastonia was third in the ALPB with a 4.88 ERA while the Barnstormers were fourth at 5.00.
  • The Honey Hunters allowed 5.06 runs per game while Lancaster yielded 5.27.
  • Gastonia pitchers recorded a league-best 1,167 strikeouts in 2023, the second-highest K total in league history. Honey Hunter pitchers fan 9.67 batters per game, led by starter Zach Mort who set the league record in 2023 with 11.34 K/9. Lancaster pitchers were third in the league in strikeouts, fanning 1,001 on the year, an average of 8.56 per nine innings.
  • Gastonia’s starters posted the lowest league ERA at 4.66 and led all staffs with 643 strikeouts. Lancaster’s starters were fifth in ERA at 5.32 and second in strikeouts at 5.97/9. Gastonia’s starters allowed the fewest base hits of any staff in the league at 604. Starters for the Barnstormers yielded 703 hits on the year.
  • Gastonia starters had a 1.26 WHIP (walks & hits per inning pitched) to 1.44 for Lancaster.
  • Gastonia tied for the league-lead with 30 wins out of the bullpen and its 5.19 ERA was seventh. Lancaster’s relievers were 16-21 with the ALPB’s second-best bullpen ERA at 4.46. Gastonia’s bullpen led the league in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.71.
  • Gastonia starter RHP Zach Mort went 13-3 and led the league with 147 strikeouts.  LHP Gunnar Kines was second in the league with a 3.33 ERA while going 12-4. The Honey Hunters were one of just two teams to have a pair of 10-game winners.  Bryan Blanton is Gastonia’s active save leader with eight along with an impressive 78 strikeouts and 46 hits allowed in 61 innings.
  • Lancaster’s core starting rotation of RHP Nile Ball, RHP Brent Teller and LHP Jared Lakind each started 20 games, making the Barnstormers the only club in the ALPB with three 20+ starters.
  • Zach Mort and Gunnar Kines’ combined 25 wins for Gastonia are the most of any starting duo in the ALPB this season.

Notable:

  • Gastonia’s starting 3B Jake Hoover was released by Lancaster on July 17 and signed by the Honey Hunters on August 1. He hit .176 in 67 games for the Barnstormers but has flourished in Gastonia, hitting .243 with three homers in 44 games. Hoover anchored Lancaster’s infield in 2022 and hit .407 in the postseason en route to the ALPB Championship. He hit .313 in the 2023 Division Championship Series vs. High Point with three doubles.

 

 



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