Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Over the past two months, all 12 teams in the Prospect League battled night in and night out for a chance to at least make the playoffs.
Now, there’s only two left.
Saturday night, the Cape Catfish (Cape Girardeau, Missouri) and the Chillicothe Paints are set for the start of a best-of-three series to crown a 2019 league champion.
Game 1 of the series is set to start at 7:05 p.m., Saturday at VA Memorial Stadium with the final two games being played in Cape Girardeau on Monday and Tuesday, if necessary.
Before Saturday’s first pitch, here’s the tale of the tape for both teams:
East Division Championship: defeated Danville 3-1
This marks the fourth time in team history the Paints are in the championship series, and the first time since 2014.
It’s been well-chronicled how the season started for the Paints, but going 39-17 to end the season is the bigger story. Don’t forget the double-digit game winning streak that started the turnaround.
This summers marks just the second time in team history where the Paints have won 40 or more games in a season (2014). A big part of the reason why the Paints have made it this far is their pitching staff, which boasts a 3.85 earned run average, lowest in the Prospect League.
With its pitching on point, the team’s .285 batting average, including the top hitter in the league in Cody Orr (.409), measures out in the top five of the league.
On top of those numbers, Chillicothe has scored 10 or more runs on 18 occasions this season.
Overall, the Paints have five guys who are currently batting .280 or higher, and they’ll need every hit to outduel the Catfish.
West Division Championship: defeated DuPage 5-2
This is Cape’s inaugural season, and it couldn’t have gone much better. It finished with the best record in the Prospect League and finds itself two wins away from hoisting the championship trophy.
Maybe even more impressive is that there’s only one time this season Cape has had a losing record … it was 1-2 through its first three games.
The Catfish went all out for their first season, naming former major league player Steve Larkin, brother of MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, as their manager. Larkin also spent time as the hitting and infield coach for the Paints a number of years ago.
With that type of experience leading a team, it’s not hard to imagine why the Catfish are an offensive machine.
They’ve hit 77 home runs, second best in the Prospect League (Quincy, 106), and boast of six hitters batting .270 or higher on the season.
They’ve also scored 10 or more runs 17 times.
The offense is high-powered, and the pitching staff is just as solid. Cape pitching has a 4.36 earned run average, second best in the Prospect League, just behind the Paints.
How fitting the championship comes down to the two best pitching staffs.
Get ready, fans. This should be a good one.