With the East division already wrapped up, the Cortland Crush played a pair of tune up games before the postseason against the Sherrill Silversmiths Sunday.
The Crush looked impressive, winning both games. Cortland took game one 8-6, powered by Hayden Houts' three-run home run, and game two 5-0 behind a 3-3, including a triple, performance from Nick Pastore.
"It's definitely a good thing to end on a positive note," Houts said. "Honestly that can carry a team to a championship. We just have to get on a role going into the playoffs, and I think this team can do great things."
The Crush finish the regular season 27-13-1, good for the second-best record in the league. It is also the second most wins the Crush have finished with in team history in a single season.
Pastore had a sensational night for the Crush. The all-star center fielder had four base hits, one triple, in the doubleheader, scored four runs and drove in one himself.
He also made arguably the play of the year in the outfield. Pastore ran down a fly-ball in the left-center field gap and made a super-man dive to rob Jacob Hunt of a base hit.
He then finished the day with seven stolen bases, braking the Crush single-season record for stolen bases.
"My mind is I'm taking second (when I reach first) and if coach wants me to take third, I'll take third too, I just got to get the right jump," he said.
Cortland was the away team in game one, making up for a rain out at Sherrill on Friday.
Game one began as a pitcher's duel between Crush starter Charlie Hammel and Sherrill starter Rylan Baker. Neither pitcher allowed a run nor hit through the first three innings.
However, Cortland's offense got going in the fourth. Alex Flock singled to lead-off the frame and Pastore worked a walk to put a pair of runners on base. Houts then mashed his home run over the right-field fence with two-outs, his second of the season, to make it 3-0.
"I was down in the count, I think I got down 0-2 or 1-2," Houts said. "Got to 2-2 and got a sinker up and put a nice swing on it. I've been struggling through this whole season, so it felt good to finally help the team."
The Crush added four more runs in the fifth inning. Flock laced a two-run single to right field that made it 5-0 and then Pastore drove in Stephen Bennett to add another run. Max Flock finished the scoring by working a bases-loaded walk, bringing Pastore home and making it 7-0.
"I was feeling comfortable," said Pastore. "I was seeing the ball well, I was getting down to two-strikes, missed my pitches early but I was just thinking put the ball in play and found holes."
Sherrill trimmed the Crush lead to 7-6 though over the next two innings, thanks to a Matt Crisci's three-run triple in the fifth and an RBI double from Eddy Garcia in the sixth.
However, Jonathan Triesler pitched the final inning and a third, allowing no hits and getting the save.
Dylan Nolan added an insurance run in the seventh that scored Pastore.
Game two was a much more dominant, overall performance from the Crush.
Cortland used five straight base hits, including RBI-singles from Max Flock and Drew Boli, to score three runs in the bottom of the second and take a 3-0 lead.
Pastore then made it 4-0 an inning later. He launched a triple off the right field fence and then scored on Brad Nowak's sacrifice-fly to right field.
Garrett Bell, pinch running for Sean O'Malley after O'Malley doubled to right center, then scored in the sixth inning on an Alex Babcock groundout to make it 5-0.
The pitching for the Crush was more impressive though. Tommy Scherrer started the game and allowed two hits in three innings of work while striking out four batters.
"He's been great, he's had a real good start and then he hurt his back and then was sick there for a while, so we were finally able to get him back, having him fresh and ready for the playoffs," Stevens said.
Then the bullpen took over, using a combination of Ryan Reicoff, Noah Nabhotz, Jacob Simon and Jimmy Tatum to pitch the final four frames. The quartet allowed only four hits, struck out seven batters and allowed no runs.
"I really wanted that two games today because I have a number of kids who have been working their tails off to improve their game all summer long," Stevens said. "I think they all know what their role is, they all know what this team needs to do in order to win and I think they're all on board with bringing a championship back to Cortland."
The Crush now wait for a matchup with either the Syracuse Spartans or Salt Cats on Tuesday to begin the East division championship series.
"I know we can beat either team, we just need to play our game," Pastore said.