Don’t expect many surprises in the Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders-Hub City Brewers quarter-final playoff series.
That’s because the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League squads tangled seven times this year, although Hub City can boast a small wonder.
“We have no surprises for them as they have seen all our pitchers throughout the season, but we have not seen their ace pitcher Simon Boucher, yet,” said Islanders’ head coach Allison Macdonald, of Boucher who was 4-3 with 47 strikeouts, one save and a 2.40 ERA in 13 games this season.
“We expect to see him early in the series so that they can come back to him in Game 5. He has good control, mixes speeds well and has a live fastball.”
Start time for Game 1 in the best-of-five matchup is tonight, at 7:30 p.m., at Memorial Field in Charlottetown.
Game 2 is Friday, starting at 7:30 p.m., in Moncton.
The series returns to Memorial for Game 3 on Sunday. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Moncton Mets (third seed) and the Saint John Alpines (sixth seed) open the other best-of-five quarter-final today in Moncton.
Boucher aside, Glenn Marks (1-2, 3.64 ERA) gets the call tonight for Hub City. Juan Ortiz and Fred Benoit are initial options out of the bullpen.
Jordan Stevenson (5-4, 2.13 ERA) starts for Isles in Game 1. Jake Beck (2-6, one save, 3.20 ERA) is set for Game 2 while Brody McDonald (4-0, three saves, 1.35 ERA) is slated for Game 3.
McDonald’s ERA was tops in the league this season and helped him earn a place on the all-star team as top left-handed pitcher.
Hub City head coach Greg Hickox won’t look for any shockers, either, after what was, on most nights, a close series.
“We do indeed know each other well. Two teams led by pitching that fight for every run we get. Always fun to play these guys. Neither team relies on power so it is a series in which fundamentals and manufacturing runs is at the forefront,” said Hickox. “They are well coached in the basics of the game in order to manufacture runs. They have quality pitchers that have competed at the national level so we will have to have a good approach every at bat.”
Charlottetown finished fourth overall in the league at 13-19 while Hub City placed fifth at 11-21.
The Isles led the season series 6-1, outscoring the Brewers 25-14 which accounted for almost 25 per cent of Charlottetown’s 109 runs.
Hub City scored 103 times. The teams were the two lowest scoring teams in the six-team circuit.
“We have trouble scoring runs, too. Our focus in practice has been small ball and situational hitting. We hope to be more aggressive,” said Macdonald. “(Infielder/outfielder) Jeremy McKinnon and (outfielder) Taylor Larkin can steal bases, but we will need to bunt and/or hit-and-run to move the rest of the runners along.”
And there is no change to the Islanders annual out-flux of players at playoff time. Most years, many return to off-Island schools and this year is not much different.
Third baseman Dylan McKenna heads back to Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alta., and Sean Corcoran and Josh Kelly are both UNB Fredericton students, although Macdonald expects to have the latter two available for most of the post-season.
In a fresh wrinkle this year, the new Holland College Hurricanes baseball team, coached by former Isles player and coach Andrew McNevin, taps the Islanders roster for Morgan MacLean (its top batter at .333), Will Connolly, Larkin and McKinnon.
So Macdonald’s hoping for the best.
“Holland College begins workouts this weekend. I expect that coach MacNevin will allow these players to play their playoff games. It might get more interesting when the Hurricanes begin their regular season, though,” said Macdonald.
To counter, the Isles added Brady Arsenault, Dylan Beck, Tyson Blue and Dylan McQuaid from its affiliated P.E.I. junior team. They can play in six games as per league rules.
Hickox said his team won’t lose any players, but can nab bodies from the Intermediate Dieppe Cardinals if needed.
He said, the squad is close to being 100 per cent.
“The health of the team is pretty good at this point with Denis Sonier almost ready to return from a leg injury, giving us our full roster.”
Holland College opens its season Saturday, Sept. 6.