LA PORTE- The 2017 American League Championship certainly did not lack story lines. Both Maple City and Jet City had to fight back from a 1-0 deficit in the ALDS which provided a little more flare as well.
These teams have a history that goes back to the Wills Township Federalists days in the league where Tony Koch, Drew Luther, Shane Anderson, George Stainko, and John Arndt started their ORWBL careers. After one season in the league, Drew Luther and Shane Anderson left the Federalists to try and build the young Magic team.
Luther and Anderson spent 5 seasons with the Magic but things ended in 2016 between Luther and Maple City as he grew frustrated and requested a trade. With hopes of finding a new identity as a team, Maple City traded Luther for John Arndt. To add even more hype, Anderson signed with the Junkballers this past offseason while Stainko decided to return to Maple City.
There has been plenty of back and forth between the 2 teams but Tony Koch has always been there as a Federalist/Junkballer. Koch was named the 2017 AL MVP after blasting 72 Home Runs and leading Jet City to their 2nd consecutive AL West crown. On paper, this series certainly had intrigue written all over it.
GAME 1- Magic, 7 Junkballers, 5- Old Rock Field (Magic lead series 1-0)
Coming straight off of a Hometown Cup 2nd place finish, Maple City immediately turned their attention to the ALCS where they would play a more rested Jet City team. Maple City came out flat in Game 1, giving Jet City plenty of opportunities to set the tone for the rest of the series.
Jet City is normally lockdown in the field but a rare error by Garrett Ruiz allowed a Maple City inning to continue. Jared Jonkman made Jet City pay as he belted a go ahead 3 run Home Run. With Wes Ellis dialed in on the mound, Jet City was not able to win the game in the bottom of the 6th as Ellis shut down any hope for the Junkballers. Game 1 certainly showed that Jet City was ready to give the Magic all that they could handle.
GAME 2- Magic, 10 Junkballers, 2- Old Rock Field (Magic lead series 2-0)
After sweating out a Game 1 win, the Magic bats woke up as long time Magic leader Zach Liberatore carried the load on the offensive end. Liberatore hit 3 Home Runs in Game 2 while Brian Lockhart added insult to injury, hitting a pair of lefty Home Runs.
The 2017 American League Cy Young Winner Wes Ellis was dominant on the mound in Game 2 as his knuckleball had Jet City on their front toes. With a 10-2 lead in the 6th, Matt Smith entered the game and picked up a cheap save, putting Maple City just 1 win away from returning to the World Series. The ALCS would shift over to Magic Park for the conclusion of the series.
GAME 3- Magic, 6 Junkballers, 2- Magic Park (Magic win series 3-0)
The ALCS shifted the scene over to Magic Park where George Stainko took the mound for Maple City in hopes of clinching a 2nd consecutive American League Championship. With Stainko making quick work of the Jet City offense, it was Caleb Jonkman and Zach Liberatore who got the Magic going offensively.
With the Magic leading 4-2, the skipper Alex Friedman provided some insurance with a Home Run over Shane Anderson's head in left. That was more than enough for Stainko and the Magic defense who shut down Jet City for the final 4 innings of the game.
Zach Liberatore made a couple freak plays while the lanky Caleb Jonkman made highlight play after highlight play in the field, saving 4 runs off of balls that would have left the park. With the Magic defense on point, Stainko sealed the deal, clinching the pennant as he allowed only 2 runs in 6 innings.
With the loss, Jet City's 2nd season in the league came to an end but the Junkballers continued their successful start for the franchise. While Manager Nate Arndt has already announced that he will be exploring the free agent market, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Jet City's future but MVP Tony Koch announced that they could be back.
After nearly being eliminated in the ALDS, Maple City now heads into the World Series more battle tested than ever. While the Magic have always been a dangerous team, there is certainly a different feeling surrounding this team as they are more poised than ever.
The American League Champions now shift their attention to their arch rival New Carlisle Newts as they will meet up in the World Series for the 3rd time in the last 5 seasons and 2nd in a row. New Carlisle has won both World Series match ups and own an 8-2 World Series record against Maple City. Could this finally be the year for Maple City?
There is a lot of confidence coming from Maple City right now and this World Series will be filled with top of the line wiffleball as both the Newts and Magic have incredible talent and depth. Will the 3rd time be a charm for the Magic? The World Series kicks off on Sunday, August 6th at 4pm ET.