The 1st round was about as good as it gets, with 3 game 5s, two series being decided in extra innings in game 5, and a few upsets. Here's how it all happened.
#6 Cincinnati Dragons vs. #3 Houston Oilers
Houston wins 3-2
Houston won game 1 3-0 as Matty Eusebio outdueled Bernard Robinson and Michael Dixon drove in a pair of runs. They held homefield advantage by winning game 2 as well, this one in a slugfest. Houston was up 6-0 after 2 innings, highlighted by a Leo Miller 3-run homer in the 1st. Cincinnati scored the next 5 and down 8-5 in the 9th, pinch hitter Rich Little hit a 1-out, 3 run homer off Houston closer Tex Howell to tie the game. But Houston prevailed on a 2-out single by Pedro Rijo for a 9-8 win.
After that the series shifted to Cincinnati, and Houston's offense never got off the plane. 5 different Dragons hit home runs and Manny Christians pitched a masterful 2-hit shutout with 11 K's for a 9-0 Cincinnati win to pull within 2-1. Game 4 was a 6-0 shutout, this one by Robinson.
Game 5 was back in Houston, and the Oilers fed off the home crowd. Vic McCormick pitched 6 innings and gave up only 1 run to the Dragons, while LF Norman Sanders had his biggest game of the series, driving in 3. That was more than enough, as the Oilers won game 5 by a score of 5-1.
#5 New Orleans Voodoo vs. #4 Salem Sacrifices
Salem wins 3-0
Salem dispatched the Voodoo in 3 games, shutting down the New Orleans offense. Game 1 was a pitcher's duel, as Salem's great David Dunwoody and New Orleans's unheralded Carlos Matos pitched to a virtual standstill- Dunwoody giving up 1 run in 7 innings, Matos giving up 1 run in 6 innings. Salem won the battle of the bullpens when the Voodoo cracked first, giving up the deciding run on a Max Clifton double in the 8th. Salem took game one 2-1. Game 2 was won by the Sacrifices 6-3 behind Dwight Salmon's quality start and a 3-run Nate Cox shot in the 5th, making a 3-0 game 6-0.
New Orleans got to host game 3, but it didn't help- 4 runs in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th sent Salem to the 2nd round with an 8-1 win. Chip Young's 7th inning homerun was the final nail in the Voodoo coffin.
#6 New York New York vs. #3 Louisville Legends
New York wins 3-2
If Louisville hadn't lost to Baltimore on the last day they wouldn't have even had to play in this series. This was easily the biggest upset of the first round. New York came right out of the gate in game one, taking an immediate advantage with Bernie Soriano's 1st inning 2-run shot. King Winn and Pete Duvall also drove in runs, which was enough for Duffy Parnell. Parnell gave up solo shots to Arnold Hunter and Bernard Young and nothing else for a 4-2 New York win. Louisville came back in game two as 5 pitchers combined to give up only 1 run in a 3-1 Legend win. Cesar Chavez scored 2 of the 3 Louisville runs.
The Legends followed up their game 2 win at home with a 7-6 win in the Big Apple. Chavez drove in 3 and Young hit a triple and a homerun to lead the Legend attack. Both bullpens tried to blow the game, as New York reliever Kenneth Graves gave up 5 runs in 1 2/3 innings to make a 2-1 game 7-1. But down 7-2 in the ninth New York managed to put the tying run on third before Gregory Snow struck out to end the game. Game 4 went to New York behind another complete game by Parnell (again giving up 2 runs) and a key error by Legend 3B Kareem Raines which would have ended the 7th inning 1-2-3; instead, 3 runs scored and New York won 4-2.
Game 5 in Louisville was one that will be remembered for a long time. Both teams had chances that went by the boards, and the game was tied 2-2 after 9. NY starter Miguel Benitez and Louisville starter Danny Little both pitched well enough to win, but the game was decided in the 10th when a bases-loaded 2-run double by King Winn followed by a 2-run single by David Belinda proved to be the difference. Louisville had runners on second and third with no out in the bottom of the inning, but could only manage one run and NY took the game 6-3.
#5 Nashville Sounds vs. #4 Las Vegas Gamblers
Nashville wins 3-2
Another 5-game series decided in extra innings. Game 1 went to the Sounds 4-3, as Ham Bruske was just a little better than Steven Tucker. Tucker only gave up 6 hits in 6 innings, but 3 of them were home runs- this accounted for all 4 Nashville runs. Las Vegas evened the series up in game 2 by going up 6-2 in the fifth and hanging on to win 6-5. Denny Moss and Wally Harvey both drove in 2 runs for the Gamblers.
Game 3 may be the one that Las Vegas looks at with the most regret. They wasted a spectacular start from Buster Charles, who was pitching a 1-hit shutout through 7 innings. But the Gamblers only managed one run, and when Midre Santiago followed a Gregg Black single with a 2-run homerun, the game belonged to Nashville 2-1. Las Vegas again evened up the series with a resounding 7-1 win. A 5-run outburst in the 7th sealed the deal for the Gamblers and 4 pitchers combined to give up 1 run.
Game 5 featured a rematch of Bruske vs. Tucker, and any fan of a pitcher's duel might view this as one of the best games ever played. Tucker gave up only 5 hits in 7 innings and Bruske gave up 3 hits in 9 as the game was scoreless through 10 innings. Nashville finally got to the Gamblers bullpen with a 2 run Kris Clinton single followed immediately by a Daryl Lyons 3-run bomb to provide the offense for a 5-0 win and trip to the second round.