Tonight begins a two week sprint to the finish line for the Chico Heat in their inaugural season in the Great West League. Chico enters play tonight tied for second place with the Marysville Gold Sox at 24-19 just a half-game clear of the Portland Pickles for the second and final playoff spot.
During the recently completed All-Star Break the league office completely changed the playoff format in the GWL. The hope was to have 4 of the 6 teams get into the post-season. But, upon further review this “plan” was deemed unfeasible for the first year league. Too many players on all of the teams need to be back at their respective schools. The school schedule was in direct conflict with the GWL’s playoff schedule and so an adjustment needed to be made.
As the league looks to expand in the 2017 season they will also be looking at how to best determine a champion next year as well. Remedies include shortening the regular season by a few games and lengthening the playoffs, doing away with the All-Star Game thereby allowing for longer playoff series’. Possibly instituting a Super Regional feel to the playoffs and having one site host the entire thing. *I should note these are not options I have heard from anyone with the league, these are simply ramblings from your friendly neighborhood play-by-play guy.*
With that said, the “feel” of these final two weeks takes on a different tone. With Medford comfortably in first place it appears there is a three-way race for one playoff spot.
Medford 30-12 .714 —-
Chico 24-19 .558 6.5
Marysville 24-19 .558 6.5
Portland 23-19 .548 7
Chico plays three games against Marysville beginning tonight at Nettleton Stadium and that will wrap up their season series against the Gold Sox. Marysville has done a lot of their damage against the Heat this season but they are not nearly the same squad the Heat encountered earlier in the season. The Gold Sox have struggled after a blistering 15-2 start. Portland will host the Heat for a three game series early next week in what figures to be a fantastic series with a playoff berth possibly at stake.
The Heat’s fortunes changed when they finally got their the full complement of players. The rotation is probably the deepest in the league with UW’s Adam Davenport and Arizona’s Luke Soroko. Chico State’s Stuart Bradley has been tremendous in the 3rd slot and Ryan Byrd has been a stalwart all season long.
Offensively Chico has thump, with league home run leader and UC Davis product Cameron Olson (5 HR’s) and BYU Freshman All-American Keaton Kringlen providing the big bats in the middle of the order. The Heat are lamenting the loss of Cal State Northridge product Clayton Hubbard to an MCL injury and are mixing and matching to replace the consistent bat he provided all year.
The big question mark for the Chico Heat, as it has been all year, is defense. If they play good defense they are a very tough team to beat. If they kick the ball around, they are in trouble. More often than not this season when Chico gives teams extra outs in multiple innings it has bitten them. Their ability to pick it, and play catch could very well determine whether they will be playing for a championship.
The sprint to the finish line begins tonight as rival Marysville comes to Nettleton Stadium. Two weeks ago we figured it would be a big series. Now, it could be a make a break series with the adjusted playoff format.
Our Loerke Insulation pre-game show is at 6:45pm right here on KpaySports.com and on the KpaySports app that you can download for free in the app store.