We had two very different LCS this season- one was over very quickly and the other went to a very exciting final game.
#5 Helena Grotto Gottos vs. #2 Seattle Killer Whales
We had division rivals go at it in the ALCS. Game 1 in Seattle seemed to indicate this would be a long series. Denny Moss hit a 2-run shot for the home team in the 3rd and Kris Olson followed with a solo shot to lead off the fourth for the home team, but Helena scratched out 2 runs in the ninth on three hits and an error and had first and third with two outs against Seattle closer Quilvio Sanchez before Richard Gabriel struck out to end the game, giving Seattle a 3-2 win. Kane Grahe went 8+ innings for the win.
Game 2 was another 1-run game, but this time extra innings were needed to decide this one. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit, Seattle forced extra innings and then got a RBI single in the tenth from veteran King Winn to win 4-3 and take a 2-0 lead in the series.
Game 3 saw the always raucous Helena crowd go home disappointed as the bullpen again let the Gottos down. In a 4-4 game in the 8th inning, Osvaldo Johnson delivered the crippling blow, a 3 run shot off Coco Hines to give Seattle the lead for good as they would go on to win 8-4.
Seattle held a commanding 3-0 lead; could Helena pull off the comeback? In a word, no. It was apparent early on they hadn't recovered from the game 3 loss and managed only 3 hits off Seattle starter Slash Ruffin. Meanwhile, Jack Hunt, Harry Lee, and Osvaldo Johnson each homered (Lee's was a 2 run shot) to account for all the offense in a 4-0 win to sweep the series and advance to their second straight World Series.
#5 Washington D.C. Blue Coats vs. #3 Salt Lake City Shakers
The NLCS pitted first-time entry Washington against the NL West champion Salt Lake City. Game 1 was an indication of how tight this series would be, as it was decided in the ninth. Tied 4-4, Lawrence Black reached on an Alex Javier error, stole second, then took third on a bad pickoff attempt by Javier. George Lowe then singled him home to give the Shakers a 5-4 decision.
Game 2 was a resounding win for the home team. A close game turned into a blowout in the matter of one inning. Leading 4-2 going into the 6th, Salt Lake City struck for 5 runs, highlighted by a 3-run shot by Black and a solo shot by Lowe. Rene Alexander gave up only two runs in 5 innings for the Shakers in a 10-3 win.
Game 3 saw Washington, now the home team, jump on the Shakers early and hang on to win. Up 3-2 in the second, Luis Martinez lined a 3-run triple for the Blue Coats to extend to a 5-2 lead. That was all the offense D.C. needed, as Graham Costello and 3 relievers held Salt Lake City to only 1 run for the rest of the game in a 5-3 win to make the series 2-1.
Game 4 was the exact opposite of game 3. Salt Lake City jumped out to the early lead by getting 5 runs in the first three innings, 4 of which came on a pair of 2-run homers by Ruben Hernandez, and survived an 8th inning rally to win 5-4 and take a 3-1 series lead.
Game 5 told us that Washington would not go quietly into that good night. Rookie John Balfour got his first (and likely not his last) playoff win by giving up only 1 run in 6 innings. Three relievers took care of the rest, pitching no-hit ball for the final 3 innings in a 3-1 Washington win to send the series back to Utah.
Game 6 saw a second strong pitching performance from D.C. starter Graham Costello and key hits from the right guys in the Blue Coats' lineup. Willis Biddle went 3 for 5 and scored twice, and Burt Stevenson added a 2-run homer to jumpstart Washington to a 6-0 lead. They would go on to win 6-3 and force a decisive game 7 in Salt Lake City.
Game 7 would feature veteran ace Alex Sanchez against young ace Carter Leonard in a winner-take-all showdown. The two dueled evenly until the 6th inning when Salt Lake City got a 2-run homer from slugger Ruben Hernandez. Washington got a solo homer from Eddie Peters in the top of the 7th to close the gap to 2-1, but Lawrence Black homered in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-1 and put the game out of reach. The final was 4-1 to advance Salt Lake City to their first ever World Series appearance.
Congratulations to Helena and Washington on their great seasons and to the two teams still alive for the championship.