Top Staten Island, but Connecticut Grabs NY-Penn Wild Card
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Cyclones spent Labor Day toiling their way to a 3-1 victory in Staten Island as Casey Meisner tossed another gem, the offense found a way to give him just enough support and Shane Bay capped an All-Star campaign with his league-leading 15th save at Richmond County Bank Ballpark.
Unfortunately, the hard work under sweltering conditions wasn’t enough to thrust Brooklyn into the New York-Penn League playoffs as Connecticut rallied for a 9-8 victory over Lowell on Monday night to grab the circuit’s Wild Card spot.
“Baseball is a really funny game. But sometimes that’s how the game goes,” first-year Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa noted after failing to lead the Cyclones back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 despite their 14th consecutive winning season on Coney Island.
Though they finished with identical 42-34 records, the Cyclones and Tigers will not meet in a one-game playoff for the league’s final playoff berth.
Instead, Connecticut automatically advances to the NY-Penn semifinals due to its 4-2 season-series advantage over Brooklyn.
“They beat us four out of six and we gave them two games at their place because of our inept defense,” Gamboa lamented. “There is no playoff. … We have a very good team, but we made 111 errors [this season], we’re 14 out of 14 [teams in the league]. When it’s bad, [our defense has] really killed us.”
Never was Brooklyn’s defensive inefficiency more on display than during a brutal eight-game losing streak in July, which was capped by a pair of grueling five-error, extra-inning defeats.
But the Cyclones turned their season around thereafter, rallying for a 27-15 mark following the arrival of Mets’ first-round draft pick Michael Conforto as their every day left fielder on July 19.
Brooklyn maintained control of its own destiny in the postseason race with Connecticut before suffering three one-run losses at Tri-City this past week on what proved to be its final road trip of the summer.
The Cyclones rebounded to bury the Yankees, 11-3, in their home finale Sunday, but Gamboa knew even after that win that Brooklyn’s playoff fate was no longer to be decided by the 24 players in his clubhouse.
“There’s nothing we can do,” he said. “Even if we win, we need [Connecticut] to lose to Lowell.”
The Tigers nearly did, falling behind 5-3 entering the bottom of the seventh inning at Dodd Stadium before putting up two runs to tie it and four more in the eighth to take the lead.
To their credit, the Spinners did not go quietly in the ninth, rallying for three runs before Joseph Monge popped out to second with runners on second and third to quash Brooklyn’s dreams of advancing to the playoffs.
The Tigers, who reached the postseason for the first time in their history, will host Tri-City in Game 1 of their best-of-three semfinal series on Wednesday night.
As for the Cyclones, they can only lament what could have been after a wild summer that featured as many twists, turns, rises and falls as the world-famous roller coaster that is their namesake.
Gamboa did a fine job of keeping the team afloat when all hope seemed lost earlier this summer. Bolstered by one of the league’s best pitching staffs, the Cyclones remained relevant until the final day of the season, and even until the final out of the NY-Penn campaign was recorded.
But here in Brooklyn, the “Wait ‘Til Next Year” refrain is growing old for a franchise that delivered a league title in its inaugural campaign back in 2001.
The Cyclones will be back again next summer, hoping to end their 13-year championship drought and their two-season skid of not making the playoffs.
Until then, Brooklyn fans can only sit back and watch as Connecticut, Tri-City, Hudson Valley and State College duke it out for the title.
This, That and the Other Thing: Hopeful Cyclones fans who purchased their playoff tickets in advance will automatically be refunded for the price of the tickets, though fees will not be refunded. Playoff tickets purchased at the ballpark must be returned to the ticket office by Oct. 10 to be refunded, according to the team’s website, www.brooklyncyclones.com. … Though he went 0-for-4 in the finale against Staten Island, LF Conforto finished with a blistering .331 average to go with three homers and 19 RBIs during his 42-game stint with Brooklyn. The Oregon State alum will likely begin next year at the Mets’ full season Class A affiliate in Savannah, unless he is deemed ready to make the jump to Class A Advanced ball in St. Lucie. … RHP Meisner, who began the summer by going 0-3 in his first seven starts, finished up by winning his final five decisions, including Monday’s season finale. The 6-foot-7 Texan scattered three hits over five scoreless frames against the Baby Bombers, while walking one and striking out three. … LHP Bay finished in a dead heat with Lowell’s Carlos Pinales for the league lead in saves with 15. However, the hard-throwing southpaw’s 1.59 ERA was nearly four runs lower than that of the Spinners’ closer.