S25 World Series: New Britain Bombers face off against Tampa Bay Bandits

The New Britain Bombers, returning to the World Series after losing to Burlington in last year's series, face off against the Tampa Bay Bandits. The Bandits, who happened to knock off last year's champions, the Bison, entered the series for the second time in three seasons. The Bombers, arguably the most successful dynasty in world postseason history, entered as the early favorites after 102 regular game wins and 8 regular position players with 20 or more homeruns and 3 players with over 100 runs batted in.  The series was expected to be a throwdown between superb pitching and New Britain's power against Tampa Bay's speed and superb baserunning.

Game 1: Cozy Ponson vs George Crandall, at New Britain
In a pitching duel of veterans, Crandall pitched well enough to win and exited after 7 innings, giving way to a bullpen that allowed the game to be tied on a 3-run homer by Fernando Rodriguez. In the 12th inning, the Bandits' Rolando Cortez hit an infield hit, stole second and scored on a single by Denny Benson on a close call at the plate. JD Springer earned the save for the Bandits.

Notable Performances:
Fernando Rodriguez, 1-4, 3 RBI, HR (Player of the Game)
Denny Benson, 3-6, 2 RBI (Game-Winning RBI)
Rolando Cortez, 2-6, 2 RBI

Final Score: Tampa Bay Bandits 5, New Britain Bombers 4
Tampa Bay leads the series 1-0

Game 2: Fred Hughes vs Tom Snelling, at New Britain
Tampa Bay jumped to an early lead, with a shellacking of Snelling. Snelling recorded one out before being charged with 6 earned runs, but the relief corps did not fare much better, allowing the Bandits to score 13 runs for the 13-4 loss.

Notable Performances:
Cookie Long, 3-5, 2R, 2HR 3RBI (Player of the Game)
Rolando Cortez, 2-3 3 R, 1SB
Wayne Ellis, 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R
King Ray, 3-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1SB
Collin Kendall, 3-4, 1 R
Bey Franco, 5 IP, 1 ER, W

Final Score: Tampa Bay Bandits 13, New Britain Bombers 4
Tampa Bay leads the series 2-0

Game 3: Ezdra Ramirez vs Sydney Ray, at Tampa Bay
With the series shifting down to Tampa Bay, the Bandits carried the momentum of game two into another offensive explosion in front of the home crowd. The Bandit's big power hitter, Wayne Ellis, pleased the fans driving in 5 runs and hitting a monster grandslam to cap an 8 run 4th inning.

Wayne Ellis, 2-6, 5 RBI, 2 R, grandslam (Player of the Game)
Denny Benson, 3-5, 2 R, 1RBI 
King Ray, 3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR
Tyler Lemon, 2-4, 3R, 3 RBI, HR
Fernando Rodriguez, 2-6, 2R
Cookie Long, 2-6, 1R

Bey Franco, 4 IP, 1 ER

Final Score: New Britain Bombers 4, Tampa Bay Bandits 16
Tampa Bay leads the series 3-0

Game 4: George Crandall vs Sherman McGowan, at Tampa Bay
The Bombers' offense woke up and chased Tampa Bay's starter McGowan with 7 runs in the first inning. Playing behind a solid, quality start by Crandall, the Bombers took the lead and never looked back.

Notable Performances:
Trent Erickson, 3-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR (Player of the Game)
Cesar Rincon, 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI
Don Hasegawa, 3-4, 1 R. 1 RBI
Alan Tillman, 2-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR
Chris Tobin, 1-4, 2 R, 3 RBI

Final Score: Tampa Bay Bandits 2, New Britain Bombers 11
Tampa Bay leads the series 3-1

Game 5: Tom Snelling vs Cozy Ponson, at Tampa Bay
The Bombers took off to an early 3-0 lead, but Ponson kept them from causing any more harm, allowing 3 runs over 7 innings. The Bandits chipped away and took the lead on a 2run homerun by Wayne Ellis in the bottom of the 7th off of reliever Julian Almanza. JD Springer got the save to clinch the Bandit's second World Series title in 3 years.

Notable Performances:
Wayne Ellis, 2-4, 1R, 2 RBI, HR
Cozy Ponson, 7 IP, 3 ER, W (Player of the Game)
Collin Kendall, 2-3, 2 R, 1BB
Denny Benson, 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB

Final Score: Tampa Bay Bandits 4, New Britain Bombers 3
Tampa Bay Wins the World Series

Revamped Bison make the playoffs but come up short

Tampa, FL - On a hot and muggy night, the S24 World Series champion Burlington Bison sqw their S25 postseason run come to an end. As the Tampa Bay Bandits celebrated in the field and advanced to the NL League Championship Series, the Bison watched in disappointment as their fans reflected on a solid season that saw them win 97 games and an improbably run to buy a first round bye into the playoffs. Ironically, it would be the team that they knocked out of the first round bye that send them packing into the playoffs.

This version of the Bison retained the core of players that won the World Series, with some notable changes in the offseason. First baseman Ivan Pescado, who stole over 100 bases in 3 seasons for the Bison and had some notable highlights in the World Series run, left as a free agent. To fill his spot in the lineup, starting pitcher Yovani Velazquez was traded away despite posting a career year for the Bison. The only Bison pitcher who won more games than Velazquez last season, Brooks Reames, was demoted to the bullpen after offseason surgery following an injury sustained just prior to the World Series. Closer Carlos Tavarez was traded away with pitching prospect Anthony Narveson early in the season in exchange for RJ Nunez.
In return for Velazquez, the Bison got 35yr old first baseman Andres Beltre. The starting rotation was rounded up through the signing of a pair of free agents: Joaquin Gil and Bob Willis.  The Bison took a chance on Gil, who despite coming off a 5-17 and a 7+ ERA season, was inserted into Reames' spot in the rotation. Willis, on the other hand, signed with the Bison for the chance to start after appearing in 58 games last season for Las Vegas, all in relief. Rookie of the year candidate Tyrone Fasano, who made a big splash in last year's World Series, was inserted into the leadoff spot. Utilityman Rodrigo Vargas was placed in an expanded role and made the everyday third baseman while David Lee was shifted to right field.

The moves worked for the Bison, as Gil and Willis combined for 34 starts. Gil became a 17 game winner with a 2.60 ERA. 36 yr old veteran Bison OT Ferrara had a career season with a 19-9 record and a 3.16 ERA over 250 innings. RJ Nunez saved 36 games in 37 opportunities as a Bison. Beltre, Pete DeJean and Brian Ramirez had solid offensive seasons, and rookie Fasano swiped 79 bases for the new Bison single season record. Three Bison (David Lee, Brian Ramirez and Pete DeJean) got Gold gloves at their respective position, and DeJean was awarded with a silver slugger award. Vargas stole 43 bases and scored 81 runs.

The Bison won 8 of their last 10 games to match the record of the Tampa Bay Bandits and secure a first round bye in the playoffs by virtue of the two teams' head to head record during the regular season.  Tampa Bay would not be deterred, quickly getting past the Richmond Riot to face the Bison. Tampa Bay won the series 3-1 to advance in the playoffs.

Burlington is left pondering on the makeup for next year's team, with several players leaving as free agents and some veterans raising questions about their health to be relied on for a whole season.