In another surprising twist to a surprising playoff season, Salem swept Chicago to earn its first-ever Belle World Championship.
Both teams had ridden some savvy free agent signing to division championships. The Free Swingers signed 7 free agents in the off-season, most notably P's Milton Starr, Del Ramirez and Roger Lawson. The Goonies spent liberally themselves, inking Ruben James, Geoff Sosa, Jacob Franklin and Jose Vargas.
Chicago had a tough route to the Series: a 5-gamer over San Juan (losing Cy Young co-winner Bruce Friend in the process), then coming back from a 2-1 deficit to beat New Orleans in 6. Salem lost former Cy Young winner James late in the season (for the entire playoffs), survived a Round 2 dogfight with Richmond, then knocking out defending champ Pittsburgh in 6.
Game 1 was in doubt until the 9th. Leading 3-2, Salem posted 4 in the top half (Escuela and Krause homers) for a 7-2 opening win.
Game 2 stayed close as well but was less in doubt. Chicago got only 3 runners into scoring position; Merrit, Franklin and Tollberg combined on a 5-hit shutout. Chavez (twice) and Hardy homered in a 6-0 win.
Game 3 may have been the Swingers' chance to get back in the series. They got solo homers from Stokes and Durbin, but could manage only 2 more hits. Placido Chavez cranked 2 more longballs for the Goonies, who took a commanding lead with a 4-2 win.
Salem smelled blood on Game 4, jumping out to a 10-1 lead after 4 innings. Credit for not quitting...they battled back with 5 runs, but the Goonies proved too tough. Salem held on 10-6 for the series sweep and their first Belle World Championship.
Congrats to both cmthieme and coach34 on fantastic seasons - on to Season 19.