Applegate upsets Chatfield for first world title since 1996

The last time the Applegate Paperclips won a world championship, Bill Clinton was president, Macarena was the top song of the year, and Phil Roselli had hair.

That was way back in 1996 when we were a nine-team league. The fourth-place Paperclips defeated the South Florida Brown Sox in five games for the franchise’s only World Series crown.

But now, the Clips own a second world championship, having upset the Chatfield Choo Choos in five games for the 2012 title.

In our first season of expansion to 15 teams, Chatfield and Applegate each captured divisional crowns and earned a bye into the semifinals, but Chatfield went into the finals as a heavy favorite, having smacked the Paperclips around in 9 of their 10 regular-season games on its way to a spectacular 121-win season.

But after splitting the first two games in Chatfield, Applegate reeled off three consecutive victories at home to capture the crown.  A staunch bullpen, in which six of their seven relievers posted 0.00  ERAs, and a 13-7 advantage in homers made the difference for Applegate. Sergio Santos, a middle reliever, allowed just 3 hits in 8 1/3 innings of work while striking out 12 to collect series MVP honors.

“Everything just came together,” said Paperclips manager Gary Kicinski. “Chatfield had a better team, but we managed to hit our split rolls when home run chances came up, and we were able to dent their dynamic bullpen. And on the other side, our bullpen was phenomenal. With every game a nail-biter, the bullpen performance proved to be key.”

Applegate advanced to the finals by defeating longtime rival Bismarck in five games, while Chatfield took six games to eliminate Margaritaville.

Bismarck had surprised Springfield in six games in a first-round series, while Margaritaville had turned back Savannah in five games in its first-round series.

3 Silver Sluggers each for Wisconsin, Hickory

Those Wilson men sure know their precious metals.

Wisconsin and Hickory, managed by Dan and Mike Wilson, respectively, lead the way with three representatives on the Silver Slugger team for 2012.

Most of us will probably take the Warhawks’ triumvirate of Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano and Ryan Braun over the Hickory threesome of Aaron Hill, Chase Headley and Jay Bruce, but nonetheless, three each.

Four other clubs boasted a pair of representatives on the team: Bushwood had catcher Buster Posey and outfielder Josh Hamilton; Iowa had outfielders Mike Trout and Josh Willingham; Bismarck had shortstop Derek Jeter and outfielder Andrew McCutchen; and Superior had DH Billy Butler and third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

South Grand Prairie had a lone representative in shortstop Ian Desmond. Meanwhile, Silver Sluggers were distributed to two players eligible for our 2013 draft — first baseman Adam LaRoche and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Gold Glove winners spread evenly around league

The Bismarck Bombers will be able to boast a pair of Gold Glovers in their 2013 outfield in Andrew McCutchen and Jason Heyward, but they were just one of several I-75 League teams to land a pair of 2012 Gold Glovers from their end-of-season rosters.

English gets a middle infielder (J.J. Hardy) and a catcher (Yadier Molina), while Margaritaville gets a catcher (Matt Wieters) and an outfielder (Carlos Gonzalez).

Hickory landed a pitcher (Jeremy Hellickson) and a third baseman (Chase Headley, really?), while Wisconsin had a pitcher (Mark Buehrle) and a middle infielder (Robinson Cano).

South Grand Prairie nabbed second baseman Darwin Barney and outfielder Josh Reddick, both first-time winners.

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Checking back on preseason prognostications: Nailed it.

Back in March we crunched the numbers to forecast who would be the league powerhouses this year. How did we do?

* We picked Applegate, Chatfield and Springfield to win their respective divisions. Check, check, check.

* We picked Wisconsin as the fourth seed, citing “way too much offense and a just-good-enough pitching staff.  #Fail. The Warhawks came in with a winning record at 81-79, but not good enough to make the playoffs.

* We liked Margaritaville as the fifth seed. Boom, roasted

* We saw Bismarck, Savannah and Superior in contention for the sixth seed. Bismarck indeed nabbed the sixth seed; Savannah surged into the fourth spot, and Superior earned the No. 1 overall draft pick by just missing the playoffs with the league’s seventh-best record. We put this one in the prognostication win column too. 

So how did we misfire on Wisconsin? Perhaps it’s just a balancing out of the Wilson Effect — last year we failed to project Hickory as a playoff team, but the Nuts claimed second in their division.

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Blitzkrieg complete, Chatfield storms into playoffs

The 33rd season of the I-75 Strat League may come to be known as the year of Roselli’s Revenge.

After suffering through a 50-110 season in 2011, Chatfield fortified itself in the offseason with trades and draft picks that helped produce a phenomenal 71-win improvement in 2012, as the Choo-Choos roared to a 121-39 mark, winning their division by 38 games and clinching a first-round playoff bye.

In our first year of expansion from 12 to 15 teams, we saw wide gaps in team performance, with all four expansion teams taking their lumps as expected. All had win totals in the 60s.

Joining Chatfield in the playoffs are division champions Applegate (103 wins) and Springfield (102 wins), both of whom set franchise records in the win column.

The three at-large playoff bids go to Savannah (99 wins), Margaritaville (86) and Bismarck (85).

Thus, the playoff pairings:

First round
No. 4 Savannah vs. No. 5 Margaritaville
No. 3 Springfield vs. No. 6 Bismarck

Second round
No. 1 Chatfield vs. Savannah-Margaritaville winner
No. 2 Applegate vs. Springfield-Bismarck winner

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