The Wild Card round is over, with 3 out of the 4 lower seeded teams advancing.
The National League matchups contained very little drama, with both series ending in sweeps.
#6 Salem Sacrifices vs. #3 Houston Riverdogs
Although it was a sweep, this series might have had the two best games of the entire round. Game 1 saw Houston's Jerome Oliver and Salem's Dave Dunwoody locked up in a pitcher's duel- the two combined to pitch 15 scoreless innings in this one, giving up a combined 6 hits. The game was scoreless going into the 11th inning. Salem got 3 in the top of the inning, highlighted by Shooter Barber's 2 run single. Solo homers in the bottom of the inning by Monte Duvall and Bob Koplove weren't enough, and Salem won 3-2.
In game 2, Dwight Salmon pitched a compltete game and Riverdogs rookie stud Lonny Gates got roughed up for 8 runs in 6 innings, as Salem won a 12-2 laugher.
Game 3 at Salem featured a fantastic effort from Houston starter Jose Merced (1-hitter over 8 innings) that ended up wasted. Houston's bullpen somehow could not hold a 6-0 9th inning lead, and with the score 6-4 with two outs in the 9th, 2nd baseman Derrek Bedard came up with the bases loaded and hit a walkoff grand slam to end the series with a 8-6 Sacrifices victory.
The Season 1 champs march on to face the Atlanta Bandits in the next round.
#5 Chicago Snake Tamers vs. #4 Cheyenne Nation
The interdivision rivalry continues; unfortunately for the Nation this one didn't last long.
Game 1 saw the Nation get off to a good start, with two Steve Bako RBIs staking Cheyenne to a 2-0 lead after 6 innings. But a Sean Simpson 2-run shot in the 7th tied the game, and Andres Calderon hit a solo shot in the same inning to provide the difference in a 3-2 Chicago win.
In game 2, Mark Bong just didn't have it for Cheyenne. The 2-3-4 hitters of Chicago (Neifi McBride, Jay Walker, and Simpson) combined for 12 RBIs in a 13-4 embarrassment.
Game 3 saw former Diamondback (forerunner of the Nation) starter Hipolito Pujols start against his old team- it was a start for Pujols to forget, giving up 7 and failing to get out of the 5th. But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead the offense gave it, as a Paul Turnbow 3-run homer in the 8th turned a 8-6 lead into a 9-8 deficit for the boys from Cheyenne. The final was 10-8 for Chicago, and they will now face divisional rival Fargo in the next round.
Both series ended up going 5, with 2-0 series leads being coughed up in both cases.
#6 Jackson Vipers vs. #3 Louisville Legends
A first-time entry into the playoffs put quite a scare into a 5-time division champ.
In game 1, home runs by Chan Suh and Esteban Vega paced the Vipers to a 7-4 victory. Lights- out closer Garry Wright (51 saves) needed only 6 pitches for the 9th inning save.
In game 2, Suh hit another homer and joined Dennis Tamura and Brook Teut with 2 RBI each in an 8-4 victory at Louisville.
Game 3 saw the Vipers come within 3 outs of a series sweep. Barney Weiss's 8th inning home run gave Jackson a 3-2 lead, but Wright couldn't hold it- a 2 run homer in the 9th by Amp Palmer gave Louisville a 4-3 win and saved the Legends' season.
Game 4 saw Cy Hughes drive in 3 and the Viper bats slow down against Lance Stevens and Tyler Wilson, who combined for 11 strikeouts. The Legends took this one easily, 7-2, setting up a game 5 showdown back at Louisville.
Game 5 saw a 2-0 1st inning Viper lead quickly erased by Louisville scoring 5 in the bottom of the first, led by Ismael Polanco's grand slam. Jackson starter Jimmy Cole never made it out of the 3rd, and the game was in little doubt at that point. Louisville won 14-5 and survived the series 3-2; they get to play Milwaukee, the defending champions, in the next round.
#5 Scranton Janitors vs. #4 Las Vegas Gamblers
These two teams (Scranton was Charlotte the last two seasons) have now met in the first round for 3 straight seasons. Charlotte won in season 3, and Las Vegas prevailed last season. The rubber match proved to be quite interesting.
In Game 1, Las Vegas's Wally Lawton was brilliant in front of the home crowd, pitching a 2-hit shutout over 7 innings. Meanwhile, the offense strung together 4 hits for 3 runs in the first to pace a 4-1 victory.
Game 2 was very similar to game 1, with the Scranton bats seemingly still back in Pennsylvania. They managed only 5 hits off Bob Delaney and 3 relievers, as the Gamblers won 7-1 to take a 2-0 series lead.
As Game 3 moved out of Las Vegas, Scranton finally found a winning hand; that hand was 3 of a kind. 3 solo homers (1 by Kevin Hyun, 2 by Randall Fisher-the last one a walk-off) would be all the offense the Janitors needed to take game 3 by a score of 3-2.
Game 4 saw Wally Lawton coming back to try and clinch the series for the Gamblers; he wasn't nearly as sharp in this one. The Janitors jumped out to a 6-0 lead after 2 innings and they hung on for a 6-4 win.
So the home team had won all 4 games, setting up an intriguing game 5 back in Vegas. It was a close game the whole way, as neither starter (Scranton's Norm Edwards and Las Vegas's Bob Delaney) got out of the 5th inning. The game was tied at 5 going into the 9th inning. Scranton's Brandon Rhodes led off with a single and promptly stole second. Randall Fisher's RBI single gave the Janitors a 6-5 lead, and Paxton Coleridge's RBI double increased the lead to 7-5. In the bottom of the inning, Al Carrasco drew a 1-out walk, but Aurelio Prieto bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game and the Gamblers' season. The Janitors draw top-seeded Monterrey in the next round.