Even though Frederick played better in the first half, with a record of 41-29 as opposed to 31-39 in the second half, Keys third baseman Billy Rowell says his team is upbeat and excited about the playoffs as the Keys host Potomac tonight in game one of a best-of-five series.
“It’s a good atmosphere right now. Both teams have good hitters so I think it’s going to be a game where we have to score some runs. Maybe we can get into their bullpen early so by game three we can be deep into their bullpen. We have a solid team one through nine, I think we’re going to make a good run here.”
Rowell hit .319-2-19 with eight doubles over his last 30 games and gave coach Denny Hocking some of the credit for his late-season run.
“Denny really helped me. The swing I was working with, we made a few technical changes and then tweaked it a little later. I’ve been sticking with that swing and the same approach throughout the second half. Can’t thank Denny enough,” said Rowell.
Keys manager Orlando Gomez talked about the matchup between these teams. During the regular season, Frederick went 11-9 vs. Potomac, a Nationals affiliate.
“I feel very comfortable matching up with that team. I think we’ve played well against them the whole year. I feel comfortable with our team and I think we are in pretty good shape.
“Even though we had a tough second half, I saw these guys battle. The last few games, we started swinging the bats better and playing better. Our attitude on this team has been real good, especially in the last week, they were ready to go waiting for the playoffs,” Gomez said.
The one player in the Nats lineup that can do major damage is first baseman Tyler Moore, the Carolina League MVP. He hit .269-31-111 with 43 doubles in 129 games. In a 36-game stretch from July 15 to August 22, Moore hit 18 homers with 54 RBI.
In 19 games vs. the Keys on the season, he hit .254-2-12 with a .735 OPS, well under his season mark of .873.
When Frederick right fielder Ronnie Welty was named to the Carolina League post-season All-Star team, that made him three for three. He earlier made season-ending All-Star clubs in the Appy League and the South Atlantic League.
The 2008 O’s 20th-round pick, has had a big year, batting .282-18-82 and is 3rd in the league in RBI, tied for 4th in homers and 5th in hits, slugging and extra-base hits.
He doesn’t seem to make many top prospects lists, but has hit well for a third year in a row.
“It would be cool to be recognized as a prospect. I don’t worry about that too much. I just go out and play my game every day and it doesn’t go un-noticed. Everyone is watching what you do.”
Welty said the O’s talked to him about playing winter ball in Australia, but he has opted to return to his Arizona home to play there while looking to add some pounds and strength over the off-season.
Right-hander Oliver Drake, a 43rd-round pick from Navy in 2008, starts on the mound tonight for the Keys after a regular season where he went 6-6, 4.36. He was 0-1, 4.22 in two starts vs. Potomac.
Lefty Danny Rosenbaum, a 22nd-round pick out of Xavier last year, starts tonight for the Nationals. He went 3-2, 2.09 in eight games with Potomac after pitching earlier in the year for Hagerstown of the Sally League.
Finally, game one of a series has historically been a big one for the Keys. They have been in 11 post-season series in their 22-year history and the team that won the opener won 10 of those 11 series.
Frederick is looking for its fourth Carolina League championship after taking home titles in 1990, 2005 and 2007.