MANCHESTER — From April to September, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats talked about bringing something special to their fans. The club backed up that consistent chatter on Friday night, hoisting an Eastern League Championship trophy to a crowd of 6,541 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
New Hampshire capped a remarkable season with an 8-5 home win to sweep the Akron RubberDucks 3-0 in the championship series and take its first Eastern League crown since 2011. A two-run third inning fueled by an Akron error broke a 2-2 tie and New Hampshire stayed the course from there while the bullpen kept Akron’s bats at bay.
It’s the third title in New Hampshire’s 15-year team history and the first captured without losing a playoff game, finishing 6-0 with back-to-back sweeps. The crown is also its first clinched at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
“You start out with so many teams, work your way into the playoffs and then win six in a row. It’s just cool,” said Fisher Cats manager John Schneider, who along with 10 Fisher Cats players is a champion for a second consecutive season after a Florida State League title last season. “It’s one of those things where it just lined up and with an unbelievable core group of players from last year (in Advanced-A Dunedin) and that are here with me now this year. The credit goes to them.”
The Fisher Cats and RubberDucks traded two-run frames before Akron’s fatal miscue in the third put New Hampshire in the driver’s seat for good. After New Hampshire started the inning with walk and a single, Akron reliever Kieran Lovegrove snared a Bo Bichette grounder and threw to third for a force out, but RubberDucks third baseman Sam Haggerty dropped the throw to allow Forrest Wall to score the go-ahead run. The error continued to aid the Fisher Cats as Jon Berti, who moved to third on the miscue, scored on a Harold Ramirez sacrifice fly to make it 4-2 Fisher Cats. Ramirez was named the EL Playoff MVP.
New Hampshire’s offense, which was the Eastern League’s best in the regular season and the playoffs, ignited after retaking the lead, scoring in each of the next three innings. The score jumped to 8-3 after Jon Berti’s two-run single in the fourth, Cavan Biggio’s solo homer in the fifth, and an RBI double from Harold Ramirez in the sixth.
Ramirez and Berti (two hits) each posted a pair of RBIs. Pat Cantwell and Josh Palacios each added an RBI while Wall scored twice.
New Hampshire’s bats were key, but an equally steady effort by its pitching solidified things. While Fisher Cats starter Jordan Romano fared OK with 4 1/3 innings of three-run ball, New Hampshire’s relief corps didn’t allow Akron a sniff at a comeback.
Danny Young, Kirby Snead, Dusty Isaacs and Travis Bergen combined to hold the RubberDucks to two runs over the remainder of the contest. Young picked up the win, giving up a run over two innings following Romano, while Bergen clinched the victory with an Ernie Clement groundout to end the game. Comparatively, New Hampshire scored runs off four of five Akron hurlers.