The Sugar Land Skeeters have been an odds-defying juggernaut all season and now the question remains: Can they keep the momentum going in the playoffs?
Under first-year manager Pete Incaviglia, the Skeeters have amassed an 81-45 record, which is seven games better than the next best team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, the Lancaster Barnstormers (74-52). The Skeeters are currently playing the first two games of the Freedom Division playoffs at Lancaster and will return home to Constellation Field on Friday for the third game of the best-of-five Freedom Division Championship Series.
“We’re encouraging fans to wear black Skeeters attire as part of our ‘Paint It Black’ theme,” said media relations specialist Ryan Posner.
If needed, games four and five will be played at Constellation Field on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Game One was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 18, and Game Two on Wednesday. Thursday is a travel day.
Sugar Land earned a playoff spot in July by winning the first half of the season. The Skeeters won the second half as well last week, meaning the Barnstormers, with the second-best overall record in the league, enters the playoffs as a wild card team.
“Clearly we’ve had the best team in the league all season,” said team president Jay Miller.
While the two best teams in the league go at it for the Freedom Division title, the Somerset Patriots and Long Island Ducks are competing for the Liberty Division crown. Somerset won the first half and Long Island the second half, clinching Saturday at a game here in Sugar Land.
If Sugar Land wins the Freedom Division, the first two games of the best-of-five Atlantic League Championship Series will be played in Sugar Land on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and Wednesday, Sept. 26, before moving to the home field of the Liberty Division champion.
When asked about the Skeeters playoff opponent, Incaviglia was not about to offer up any bulletin board fodder.
“Well, you know, playoffs is playoffs. The team that’s playing best is the team that’s going to win,” he said. “You’ve got two good ballclubs going at each other and the team that plays the best fundamental baseball wins.”
The Skeeters have managed to win despite having a record 15 players called up. Of those, two went to Mexican teams and 13 went to Major League organizations.
“Pete (Incaviglia) did a heck of a job moving players in and out,” Miller said.
In the seven-year history of the Sugar Land Skeeters, the team has made the playoffs four times, the championship twice and won the championship once. In 2013, the Skeeters second season in the league, the team won both halves of the Freedom Division with a league record 95 wins to 45 losses. The loss of several players at the end of the season whose contracts were purchased resulted in the team getting swept in the divisional playoffs by Somerset.
The next season in 2014, the Skeeters went 80-60 and lost the league championship to Lancaster. After failing to make the playoffs in 2015, the Skeeters won the league championship in 2016 by going 6-0 and sweeping the York Revolution in the division and the Ducks for the championship.
Now the team is ready to “Paint it Black” and finish the job they started in April.
“The entire team, the entire organization – we’ve had a great year, won 80 games, it’s a team effort from the front office to the coaching staff to the players,” Incaviglia said.