Atlantic League Bullpen, 2022 Final Edition
Champions: The Lancaster Barnstormers completed a remarkable second-half turnaround by winning their third ALPB Championship. Lancaster finished 17 games behind So. Maryland in the first half then turned in a 44-21 record in the second half to earn a spot in the playoffs. Lancaster trailed the Blue Crabs two games to one before winning the final two games of the North Division Championship. The ‘Stormers then swept High Point in three games to claim Lancaster’s third ALPB title. Oscar De La Cruz tossed a four-hit complete game shutout in the deciding game to earn MVP honors.
Welcome Staten Island: The Staten Island FerryHawks debuted in 2022, giving the Atlantic League an all-time record 10 teams. After a challenging first half, the FerryHawks rebounded to finish the second half of the season in third place in the North Division.
Drake’s Debut: The Atlantic League in 2022 became the first contemporary professional baseball league to produce its own official baseball. The Drake baseball was the result of over three years of extensive research and development and was named for Ellis Drake (1839-1912) who conceived of the two-piece, interlocking figure eight design that is still used for the cover of the baseball.
Pacesetters: Southern Maryland, with a 48-18 record, posted a .727 winning percentage for the first half, the best half-season mark by any club in league history. The 2015 Somerset Patriots held the previous half-season mark of .714 (50-20). In addition, Gastonia finished the year with 88 victories, tied for the third-most ever for a full season in the Atlantic League.
Groundbreaking: The Atlantic League became the only professional baseball league with a female with a player contract when Staten Island’s Kelsie Whitmore became the first to play in the ALPB. She made her debut for the FerryHawks on 4/21, her first start in LF on 5/1, and collected her first hit on 9/3 vs. Long Island. Alexis “Scrappy” Hopkins became the second woman to play in the ALPB, and the second to earn a start in the 9/16 game between Lexington and Kentucky. Hopkins, who served as the Genomes’ bullpen catcher throughout the season, was in the starting line-up on 9/16 and 9/17 as the designated hitter and lined a base hit up the middle for her first professional hit. On 9/18, she was the starting catcher for the Genomes and recorded three putouts and two assists. The Genomes also reached a milestone on 5/17 when Hopkins coached first and hitting instructor Lindsay Gardner coached third for the Genomes, putting multiple women in the coaching boxes.
Lew Ford Knocks 1,000th hit: Long Island’s Lew Ford became the fourth player in Atlantic League history to reach the 1,000-hit mark. Ford earned his 999th career hit on a sharp line drive to right off Charleston starter Derrick Adams on 8/28. Ford then singled to left in the fourth off Adams to mark his 1,000th career safety. Ford moved to 1,001 career hits with a single to right off Nate Peden in the seventh inning.
Thompson Hurling History: It’s not easy keeping up with all the records and highlights that accompany Southern Maryland hurler Daryl Thompson. The right hander ended the 2022 campaign owning ALPB career records in wins (91), starts (209), innings (1340.2), and strikeouts (968). Thompson is the only ALPB pitcher with eight 100-inning seasons to his credit and became the first to be honored with three consecutive ALPB Pitcher of the Year awards.
Hawkins’ Homers: Lexington’s Courtney Hawkins tied the ALPB record with 48 homers in a season, matching Newark’s Ozzie Canseco who had 48 in 2000. In addition, Hawkins’ 125 RBI were the second-most in league history behind Canseco’s 129 in 2000. Hawkins set the league record with 310 total bases and posted the second-highest marks in history with 72 extra base hits and a .655 slugging percentage.
Sandford Sets Steals Standard: Darian Sandford’s fifth season in the Atlantic League included playing 20 games with Gastonia and the final 23 contests of the year with Lexington, Sandford stole 13 bases to become the Atlantic League’s all-time leader with 295. Sandford was the ALPB stolen base leader in 2018 and ‘19 with Lancaster and again in 2021 while playing for Lexington and York.
New Stolen Base Mark: Gastonia broke the Atlantic League record for the most stolen bases in a season when Cole Freeman stole second base in the third inning of an 8/24 contest vs. Charleston. It marked the Honey Hunters’ 266th stolen base of the year. Somerset previously held the mark of 265 in 2000 in 140 games. Gastonia broke the record in 110 contests.
Lee Clubs Triple Triples: Southern Maryland RF Braxton Lee hit three triples in a home game against High Point on 8/9. He finished the game with three hits, two runs scored and three RBI. It is believed to be an Atlantic League record for triples in a game.
Cycling: Kentucky’s Luke Becker hit for the cycle on 6/26 in a home game vs. Charleston. Becker’s four hits included a homer in the first, a double in the second, a triple in the fourth, and a single in the seventh. High Point’s Michael Russell hit for the cycle in at Lexington on 7/20. Russell had six hits including a first inning double, singles in the second, sixth and ninth innings, a homer in the third frame, and a triple in the eighth. In addition, Russell’s six hits were the most by an ALPB player since Sean Burroughs of Bridgeport had six hits vs. New Britain on 8/19/2017.
AARP Honors: Former Met Nelson Figueroa came out of retirement to start two games for Staten Island in 2022. Figueroa tossed a seven-inning CG and struck out four at Gastonia on 8/9. Figueroa started his pro career in 1995 and the first batter he faced in his return, Gastonia’s Reece Hampton, was born in 1996. LI’s Lew Ford became the oldest player in the ALPB to homer when he smacked a round-tripper vs. Lexington on 7/13. Ford homered at the age of 45 years, 11 months and 1 day, breaking the the previous mark held by Rickey Henderson (Newark) who homered at 45 years, 6 months and 23 days on July 17, 2004. Ford hit two home runs vs. Charleston on 8/14 and now has 31 ALPB homers since turning 40, more than any other 40+ player in league history. And hats off to 44-year old Ricardo Gomez who made 22 relief appearances for Charleston to set the ALPB record with 388 career appearances. Gomez’s career started in 1997 with the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League team, a year prior to the founding of the Atlantic League.
Over 1,000 Wins Between Them: York’s Mark Mason won his 600th ALPB game with a 3-2 home win over Staten Island on 8/30. He became the fourth ALPB manager to reach the 600 mark. Mason finished his ninth season with the Revolution with 606 career wins and the 2017 ALPB crown. Southern Maryland manager Stan Cliburn recorded his 400th win as an Atlantic League manager when the Blue Crabs defeated Staten Island 11-0 on 9/8. Cliburn has managed six years in the Atlantic League having skippered the Blue Crabs in 2015, New Britain in 2016 and 2017 before returning to Southern Maryland for the 2019 season. Cliburn became the ninth Atlantic League manager to surpass the 400-win mark.
Rivalry Series: The Atlantic League features a number of season-long rivalries that are hotly contested throughout the year. York and Lancaster’s “War of the Roses” went to the Barnstormers 18-14 in 2022. Gastonia and High Point meet in the “Battle of the Old North State” with the Honey Hunters winning the regular season by a 20-14 margin. Kentucky and Lexington shared Wild Health Field in 2022 with the Genomes owning a 23-18 advantage. Staten Island and Long Island tangled for the “Battle of the Belt” with the series knotted at 17-17.
No-Hitter: Four Gastonia pitchers combined to no-hit Lexington 11-0 on 7/27. Roger Bernal, in his first appearance as a Honey Hunter, threw five innings and walked five but did not yield a hit. Euclides Leyer fanned three in his two innings. Quinton Torres-Costa and Sam Bordner each had one strikeout in their one inning of work.
Longest At-Bat of the Season: Kudos to Lexington’s Pete Yorgen who, on 7/14, saw 15 pitches from Long Island’s Tyler Webb before flying out to left.
Low-Hit Games: Gastonia’s pitching staff had 10 games in which it allowed two or fewer hits, throwing a no-hitter, two one-hitters and seven two-hitters. No other ALPB club had more than five low-hit games.
Tejeda’s 10-RBI Game: Kentucky’s Isaias Tejeda drove in 10 runs in a 16-7 win over Charleston on 9/2. Tejeda hit a three-run homer in the third inning, a grand slam in the fifth and a three-run homer in the seventh. Not only was it the most RBI by an ALPB player this year, it marked the most by any Atlantic League player since Craig Maddox of New Britain drove in 11 vs. Long Island on 9/1/17.
Two for 20-20 in ‘22: Gastonia’s Jake Skole and Zach Jarrett are the newest members of the ALPB’s 20-20 club with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. Skole had 23 homers and 26 stolen bases while Jarrett hit 21 homers and swiped 32 bases. They became just the second set of teammates in ALPB history with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases, joining Nashua’s Glenn Murray and D.J. Boston in 2000.
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