Both Bradley County professional baseball players Ryan Casteel and Ryan Fraser will open postseason play this evening on opposite sides of the continent.
California League Catcher of the Year Ryan Casteel will lead the red-hot Modesto Nuts into the Advanced-A playoffs as the Colorado Rockies farm team takes on the Visalia Rawhide in the best-of-3 opening round.
After going just 32-38 in the first half of the season, the Nuts enjoyed an impressive run to take the second-half North Division championship, going 15-3 to close out August and post a 43-27 mark since the break. Since Fred Nelson replaced Lenn Sakata as manager in July, Modesto posted a 32-20 record.
Casteel wrapped up a strong regular season by leading the team in slugging percentage (.523), OPS (.875) and tied a teammate with 22 home runs.
The former Bradley Central and Cleveland State standout was also second on the Nuts with 76 RBIs, 50 walks, 215 total bases and a .523 on base percentage. He also finished with a .270 batting average, 30 doubles, four triples, 111 hits, 67 runs scored and committed just one error in 108 games.
The Nuts open the playoffs this evening in Visalia, before the Arizona Diamondback farm club, which went 77-63 overall to claim the wildcard berth, will have to travel to Modesto for the second and third (if necessary) games of the series.
The Nuts/Rawhides winner will square off against the San Jose Giants (83-57) for the North Division title in a best-of-5 series beginning Saturday.
The Southern Division opening round battle will be between the Inland Empire 66ers (Los Angeles Angels) and the Rancho Cucamouga Quakes (Los Angeles Dodgers). The victors will tangle with the Lancaster JetHawks (Houston Astros) for the right to play for the California League title against the North Division champ.
Meanwhile on the other coast, Fraser’s Binghamton (N.Y.) Mets will battle the Trenton (N.J.) Thunder in the East Division finals of the Class AA Eastern League. The battle of New York City affiliates will open this evening and Thursday in Trenton (Yankees), before moving to the Mets farm team’s facilities for the final three games.
The B-Mets led the Eastern League with an 86-55 record this summer, while Trenton went 74-67. Five of the 17 games between the two teams were decided by one run, and the Mets went 4-1 in those games.
A pair of Pennsylvania teams will square off in the West Division playoffs as the Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals) and Erie SeaWolves (Detroit Tigers) do battle for the right to face the B-Mets/Thunder victor.
Fraser, who rejoined Binghamton in late May after he finished rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, made 27 relief appearances this summer, posting a 1-2 record, with five holds and a 5.63 earned run average.
The former Walker Valley and University of Memphis standout toed the rubber for 38.1 innings, striking out 25 batters and issuing 31 free passes. The big right-hander allowed 51 hits and 24 earned run this season.
The Eastern League championship best-of-5 series will run Sept. 10-14.