The Prospector: Renegades Edge ValleyCats 3-2 in Season Finale, Face Brooklyn Friday in Playoffs

The Renegades edge the ValleyCats 3-2 in the nail-biting finale of the regular season, with home-field advantage in the playoffs at stake.

Wednesday, Sept. 5—The final regular night of a baseball season doesn’t get much better than this. After being battered by the Tri-City ValleyCats 9-3 Tuesday (a game I missed because I was covering a Peekskill Board of Education meeting for Patch; please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site), the Renegades and the Cats faced each other at Bruno Stadium at 6 tonight in the series finale with identical 51-24 records and home-field advantage for the entire New York-Penn League playoffs on the line along with the opportunity to post the best record in the league. Meanwhile, the Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs and Brooklyn Cyclones, who had identical records early in the week, were still scrambling to determine who would clinch the remaining two playoff spots.

When the dust settled, the Renegades stood at the top of the mountain after defeating Tri-City in a 3-2 nail biter, with a 52-24 record (best in franchise history, eclipsing 1998’s 50 victories) and the championship of the McNamara Division. Tri-City, champion of the Stedler Division, also had a franchise best, 51-25, eclipsing 2004’s 50. Auburn clinched the Pinckney Division championship with a 46-30 record. Brooklyn finished with a 45-31 record to claim the wild-card berth. Batavia, with a 44-32 record, finished two games behind Auburn in the Pinckney and one game behind Brooklyn in the wild-card competition and went home.

The Renegades scored all three of their runs in the third inning on back-to-back singles by Joey Rickard and Justin O’Conner, a sacrifice fly by Tommy Coyle and back-to-back doubles by Richie Shaffer and Ryan Dunn. Tri-City responded with a run in the home third and drew within one when Joe Sclafani hit a solo homer in the fifth but stranded solo runners in each of the next three frames. A ninth-inning double play ended the game, and the vocal Hudson Valley contingent went wild. A fine 12-minute display of fireworks, marking the final night of the regular season and a tribute to the fans, put an exclamation point on the game. Please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site.

I visited my friend Scott in Section 170 before the game for an exchange of good-natured ribbing, followed by the expressed hope that the game would be a close, well-played contest worthy of the occasion (it was). “Great attitude!” said veteran usher Denis McCarthy, who was standing nearby. I added that, whatever the outcome, one of my two favorite teams would win.

I then settled into my seat at the right end of Row F, Section 120, behind the net just toward the first-base (Renegades) side of home plate, which lined up perfectly with the third-base foul line. Thanks to the net I did not have to worry about wielding a glove in case of foul balls, and the seat seemed to be a bit roomier than last night’s.

Mascots Southpaw and Ribbie the pink pig stopped by on the field before the game. I traced a rectangle in the air to inquire about the status of the “Southpaw 4 President” sign I gave him last night via Scott, and the big cat promptly bowed gratefully several times in my direction. Ribbie (from RBI, or runs batted in) was less accepting, making a dismissive wave of the hoof toward my Gades gear, but we shared a friendly fist/hoof bump through the net before going our separate ways.

Hudson Valley faithful in attendance included Amber, wife of conditioning coach Ryan Thomas, and son Bryce, who had greeted me by the roster board, Big Steve and Shirley, Bev and Bob, Paul and John, and several other folks I heard but did not see. Joel Caminero gave me a big smile after I called “Vamonos, Joel!” (“Let’s go, Joel!”) when he was in the on-deck area early in the game.

Manager Jared Sandberg was in excellent spirits afterward outside the clubhouse, even letting out a few whoops of his own in response to those of our fans. Bev, in her role as resident baker for special occasions, was offering home-made brownies to the players and fortunately had extras for the rest of us. Scott, who has engaged in good-natured bantering with Jared over the years, joined us, and we had a nice chat with Charles Epperson and a few other players before it was time for the team bus to return to Fishkill. Jared, as he climbed aboard, said he would see us Saturday at The Dutch for the second game of the playoffs; I replied that I planned to see him Friday in Brooklyn for the first game. He seemed surprised and pleased.

Scott and I then headed for the exit from the ValleyCats clubhouse, where we wished a few players well against the Doubledays, whom they will play in Auburn Friday and at home Saturday. Scott and I both would like to see the Cats and the Gades back together in the championship series.

As we did Monday, Scott and I then headed across Route 4 to Wendy’s for a late supper (again, apple pecan chicken salad for me, cheeseburger meal for him) and Price Chopper (dog food), with a stop at Stewart’s Shops, where I gassed up for $3.939 a gallon, en route to Scott’s apartment. Dallas and Peanut greeted us enthusiastically (and loudly) as we brought in the dog food, and we visited briefly after they calmed down.

It was one minute after midnight when we said goodbye until our paths cross (we hope) during the playoffs. I then retraced my route along Interstates 787 and 90, the Taconic State Parkway and Peekskill Hollow Road. Except for a number of deer alongside the Taconic (fortunately they stayed alongside) the trip was without incident, traffic was almost nonexistent, I made good time and arrived home safe and sound, thank God, a little after 2 a.m.

Next: Semifinals, best two of three: Game 1: Friday, Sept. 7, Hudson Valley at Brooklyn, first pitch 7 p.m.; Tri-City at Auburn, first pitch 7:05 p.m. Game 2: Saturday, Sept. 8, Brooklyn at Hudson Valley, first pitch 7:05 p.m.; Auburn at Tri-City, first pitch 7 p.m. Game 3 if necessary: Sunday, Sept. 9, Brooklyn at Hudson Valley, first pitch 1:05 p.m.; Auburn at Tri-City, first pitch 5 p.m.

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