For the third-straight year, the Laconia Muskrats have earned a playoff spot in the Eastern Division. Since the franchise moved to Laconia in 2010, the team has been a postseason regular. But 2012 marks the first time the Muskrats rank higher than a four-seed, and were not forced to fight to extend their season in the final games.
Also for the first time, the team will play an opponent other than the Newport Gulls in the first round, who have been the top seed to Laconia’s four-spot for the last two seasons. The Gulls are again at the top of the East, but this year it will be the Sanford Mainers who face them, as Laconia relegated the Mainers to fourth place in Tuesday’s walk-off win.
Laconia will face the second-seeded New Bedford Bay Sox, whose ten All-Stars led all Eastern teams in selections. The Muskrats and Bay Sox split their season series 4-4, with very even head-to-head statistics. In fact, both teams amassed 77 hits in the series.
Laconia will attempt to move on without the help of their record-smashing offensive leader Danny Collins (Troy). Collins has departed to attend to a finger injury. He hit .455 in eight games against New Bedford, belting eight homeruns, five at Paul Walsh Field, with 13 RBI.
Looking to fill the gap, the Muskrats had five other players hit over .500 in the season series. Kyle Convissar (Maryland) hit .417 in four games with four RBI. Joe Torres (Iona) had two homers and six RBI against the Bay Sox. Vince Conde (Vanderbilt) totaled 11 hits in the eight games, along with three longballs and nine RBI.
On the mound, Tim Swatek (Fordham) has seen the Bay Sox the most, appearing in four games with a 1-0 record and a 3.38 ERA. Nic Manuppelli (Youngstown St) has the only save of the eight game series between the two teams.
For New Bedford, Zack Graczyk (SUNY Cortland) and Andy Lalli (SNHU) were Muskrat killers. Graczyk hit .344 with ten RBI, while Lalli added nine RBI and three homeruns.
After a rainout between the teams on opening day, the Bay Sox and Muskrats had to wait until June 27th to face each other. The teams split a mid-week series, combining for 30 runs and 44 hits. New Bedford then took the next three games of the series, winning four in a row. Laconia responded to claim the final three games of the summer, consummating with Collins’ three-homer night, including a grand slam.
In their four wins, New Bedford was forced to score ten or more runs to put away the Muskrats. Laconia’s wins came by scores of either 8-3 or 7-6.
New Bedford failed to make the postseason in 2011, prompting one of the best turnarounds in the NECBL this year. Laconia’s 2011 run to the NECBL Championship Series was well-documented, as the depleted four-seed toppled the surging Gulls in the first round. The Muskrats could be on track for an Eastern Finals rematch with the Mainers if upsets are in the air.
The 2012 NECBL playoffs begin with first round action on Friday, August 3rd. Laconia visits the hosting Bay Sox at 6:30 on the NECBL Broadcast Network. The action then shifts to Laconia Saturday night, for Game 2 of the best-of-three series.