Hopes were high late on Friday night when the Beloit Snappers beat the Clinton LumberKings in Game 1 of the Midwest League playoffs. They would be coming home with two chances to beat the top team in the league. The Snappers lost Game 2 on Thursday night in extra innings. On Friday night, in the decisive Game 3, the Snappers again lost in extra innings to end the series and their 2012 season. Would it also be the final time the Beloit Snappers would be affiliated with the Twins?
In the top of the 1st inning, the LumberKings got on the board first thanks to an error by Tyler Grimes and later a wild pitch by starter David Hurlbut.
In the bottom of the second, Eddie Rosario got on with a two-out single. Miguel Sano hit a double off the wall in right center to score Rosario and tie the game.
After the two teams combined for 26 runs scored in the first two game, and each team scored in the first inning, a fair assumption would be that this would be another hitter's dual. Instead, it was quite the opposite.
Snappers starter, lefty David Hurlbut, went the first six innings and gave up only that unearned first inning run. He gave up just two hits and walked just one while striking out five.
LumberKings starter Mayckol Guaipe gave up the first inning run and that was it as well. He went seven innings and gave up just two hits (both in the 1st inning). He walked two and struck out five.
Mason Melotakis came in to start the seventh inning. He gave up just two hits and no runs while striking out five in 2.1 innings. DJ Baxendale got the final two outs of the top of the 9th.
Stephen Landazuri came in to the 8th inning. He pitched a scoreless inning. In the bottom of the 9th frame, he got Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano out and two batters later got out of that inning.
That brings us to the top of the 10th. Baxendale remained on the mound for the Snappers. Guillermo Pimentel led off with a long home run over the fence in dead center field, just beyond the reach of a leaping Eddie Rosario. Later in the inning, Dan Paolini came through with a solid two-run single up the middle to stretch the score to 4-1.
That's what the score was as the Snappers entered the bottom of the 10th. Three batters later, the game and the Snappers season was over.
But what a season it was for the Snappers. Knowing they had top prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario, expectations were high. The Snappers played very consistent baseball all year long. They won 38 games in the first half and 39 games in the second half of the season. Sano was every bit as good as expected. So was Rosario even though he missed over a month with a broken, well, face. The starting pitchers were solid all year, especially the three left-handers, Jason Wheeler, David Hurlbut and Matt Tomshaw. The bullpen was strong in the first half because of the likes of AJ Achter and Michael Tonkin, but they were just as good after those guys were promoted because they were replaced by hard-throwers like Mason Melotakis, Zack Jones, DJ Baxendale, Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey for the playoffs.
Of course, that open-ended question remains; will the Twins and the Snappers be able to agree to extend their player development agreement? We won't know for about 10 days. what will happen.
But I, for one, think that the Beloit Snappers front office is terrific. Having been there four times in the past three seasons, I have seen first-hand how hard their front office of six works. They deserve a ton of credit.
And, I know that the Snappers don't draw very many fans, but there are some very loyal fans who are at every game at home and even some on the road. Those people have loved the Snappers affiliation with the Twins, touting the good people that the Twins bring in.
It will be an interesting next ten days to two weeks. For now, I think it important just to think about a very good 2012 Beloit Snappers season that ended with a very good three-game series against the Clinton LumberKings, a team that has now won 19 of their last 21 games.