Granger Sweeps Mishawaka in NLCS To Advance To 2nd Straight World Series
GRANGER- For the second consecutive season, the Granger Panther and Mishawaka Meatspins met up in the NLCS with a trip to the World Series on the line. Last year, Granger got the best of Mishawaka as they downed the Meatspins three games to one en route to their first World Series title in franchise history.
Just like last year, the 2022 NLCS began with Games 1 and 2 out at Rose Park, the storied home of the Meatspins. Granger wasted no time getting going in the opener as they started the series with back to back to back Home Runs from Griffin Smith, Alex Zarazee, and Seth Campbell. The Panthers carried that 3-0 lead into the 4th inning where they were able to manufacture a couple more runs via small ball.
Mishawaka finally hopped on the board in the bottom half of the 4th with three runs as they pulled within two runs heading to the 5th. That was when the Panthers offense exploded for six runs to make it an 11-3 ballgame. Mishawaka hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 4th to make it 11-4. Granger followed up their six run 5th with a second consecutive six run inning as they took a 17-4 lead heading into the bottom of the 6th. Smith shut the door on Mishawaka to seal the deal as Granger jumped out to an early 1-0 series lead.
2021 World Series MVP Griffin Smith started Game 2 with another lead off Home Run before the Panthers were able to scrape across two more runs in the 1st as they once again jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. For the 2nd straight game, Granger held a 5-3 lead heading into the 4th inning. Granger then built some separation by scoring three runs in the top of the 4th.
Mishawaka would not go away quietly in front of their home fans as they fought back to tie the game at eight. The Panthers would score four runs in the top of the 6th to put the pressure on Mishawaka who needed a big inning to avoid falling into a 2-0 NLCS deficit. The Meatspins were able to score a pair of runs in the bottom half but that would not be enough as they fell short in Game 2 by the score of 12-10. Panthers skipper Griffin Smith led the way for Granger in the first two games as he racked up a ton of hits along with a team leading 6 Home Runs.
Both teams agreed to play the entire NLCS on the same day so once Game 2 finished up, both teams packed up and made the short trip over to Snead Field where they would conclude the series. Game 3 was a back and forth battle out of the gates as Anthony Rieff put the Meatspins up early with a solo a shot. Seth Campbell would hit a solo HR of his own in the bottom half to tie the game at one.
Mishawaka plated a run in the 2nd via some small ball before Alex Zarazee tied the game in the bottom half of the 2nd with a solo HR. Mishawaka would add another run in the 3rd after another solo HR before Griffin Smith did the same thing in the bottom half to tie the game at three. Both pitchers were then able to retire the opposing side in the 4th inning as the game remained tied at three heading into the 5th inning.
The Meatspins were able to string some hits together in the 5th as they manufactured a few runs while also getting a solo HR from Joey Schuster. Starting pitcher Anthony Rieff held the Panthers scoreless in the bottom of the 5th before Griffin Smith blanked the Meatspins in the 6th as Mishawaka held a 7-3 lead heading into the bottom of the 6th. It sure looked as though this series would be heading to a fourth game but Granger had other plans.
Daivyn Davis led off with a single before they were able to retire Griffin Smith on a close call for the first out of the inning. Alex Zarazee would then hit a one out single before a Seth Campbell single brought Davis in to score. That brought Austin Williams up to the plate with two men on and only one out. That's when Williams delivered the big swing as he sent a three run Home Run over the Snead Field fence to tie the ballgame up at 7. Rieff was able to retire Davis and Smith to end the inning but not before Granger was able to fight back to force extras.
Mishawaka's Joe Stratton led off the 7th with a double but Smith and the Panthers lockdown defense was able to get out of the jam. Alex Zarazee led things off in the bottom of the 7th as Granger was one swing away from winning their 2nd straight pennant. It looked as though Alex Zarazee had hit a walkoff HR to clinch the series but Mishawaka's Joe Stratton dove over the fence, slapping the ball back into play to keep the Meatspins hopes alive.
Seth Campbell followed Zarazee with another single before Anthony Rieff was able to get Austin Williams to pop out. Daivyn Davis then hit a grounder hoping to score the winning run but Mishawaka was able to get him out, but not before both runners advanced. That brought up who else but Griffin Smith as Granger had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs.
Smith delivered the walk-off Home Run in the 2021 World Series to help the Panthers clinch their first ORWBL World Series title as he has proven himself to have that clutch gene. Although it looked a little different than their World Series clincher, Smith was able to get the job done as he put the ball on the ground forcing the Meatspins to make the play.
Smith hustled down the line and by the time the ball went through Mishawaka's Anthony Rieff's hands, Smith had crossed first base as he delivered the walk-off single to send the Panthers back to the World Series. The Panthers sideline erupted as they were able to shut the door on Mishawaka's season for the 2nd straight year while also punching their ticket to the World Series for a 2nd time in a row.
The Panthers have had quite a run in their first 6 years as a franchise. They have won the National League regular season title in all six seasons as a member of the league. They suffered some playoff heartbreak early on while also getting swept by Maple City in their first World Series appearance back in 2018. They then suffered back to back NLCS exits in 2019 and 2020 before they were finally able to get the monkey off of their backs in 2021.
Granger will now head into the 2022 World Series in a new role as they are now just four wins away from defending their ORWBL World Series title. They will look to become just the 4th ORWBL franchise to win back to back World Series titles as they hope to join the South Bend Sour Wowers (2010-2011), New Carlisle Newts (2013-2014), and Maple City Magic (2017-2020).
After squaring off against the Maple City Magic in their first two World Series appearances in 2018 and 2021, Granger will face a new test as the South Bend Truffle Butter were able to win their first American League Pennant in only their 2nd season in the league and 1st season playing over on the American League side. It will be the first meeting between the two teams this year as the series will kick off with Games 1 and 2 on Saturday at Payton's Yard in Elkhart.