Brooklyn enjoying another late-season push under Donnelly
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
There's one thing we all know for sure about a Rich Donnelly-led team: It always finishes extremely strong.
For the third straight summer, the Brooklyn Cyclones are playing their best baseball of the season down the stretch, putting the heat on first-place Aberdeen in the tight battle for McNamara Division supremacy and the race for a third consecutive playoff berth under Donnelly.
Winners of four in a row, including Monday's 8-1 thrashing of Tri-City before a crowd of 5,229 at Coney Island's MCU Park, the Cyclones (a season-high four-game above .500 at 35-31) can sense the finish line approaching to the 76-game grind of a New York-Penn League schedule.
After foundering near or at the bottom of the division for the first month-and-a-half of the campaign, the Cyclones, buoyed by a rock-solid pitching staff which sent four hurlers to the NY-Penn All-Star Game, and a recent rash of strong hitting, are finally clicking on all cylinders.
"There are two kinds of players in this game, those who are humbled, and those who are about to be," Donnelly noted last week when discussing his team's late-season resurgence.
Clearly humbled early, but on fire of late, the Cyclones have outscored their opponents 32-8 during their four-game run, which has left them a half-game shy of the division's top spot with a huge two-game set against the IronBirds slated for this coming Sunday and next Monday on Surf Avenue.
Before that, Brooklyn will host Tri-City on Wednesday and Thursday, and welcome rival Staten Island to MCU on Friday before visiting the Yankees on Saturday.
After routing Vermont 10-2 last Friday night behind Alex Sanchez's fourth-inning grand slam, the Baby Bums watched All-Star right-hander Robert Gsellman fan a career-best 13 in a 2-0 blanking of the Lake Monsters the next night.
"Everything was working, my fastball was really good," Gsellman told MiLB.com. "[Catcher] Tomas Nido called a good game, I felt comfortable with everything he called."
Brooklyn continued its offensive fireworks with a 12-5 drubbing of Vermont in Sunday's series finale as L.J. Mazzilli and James Roche drove in three runs apiece. Mazzilli bashed his second homer of the summer in Monday's rout as Brooklyn used a five-run fifth to settle matters early.
In 2011, the Cyclones made a mad dash to the playoffs in their first campaign under Donnelly, ripping off victories in 10 of their final 12 contests to grab the NY-Penn Wild Card. They pulled away late to grab the wild card again in 2012, edging Batavia by one game.
It seems certain that this year's race will come down to the final few days, with Brooklyn and Aberdeen battling for the right to call themselves McNamara champions. Judging from their previous history under Donnelly, it's hard to imagine the Cyclones not playing beyond their Sept. 4 regular-season finale at Tri-City.
Tickets for the 2013 New York-Penn League Playoffs went on sale to the general public on Monday.
All tickets for the 2013 postseason will cost just $10 (bleacher seats will not be available).