The 2017 HRL Champion Rays were dominant during the regular season, and that continued throughout the playoffs.  They were the only the 4th team to finish the season with 4 or fewer losses (35-4), joining the 2011 Orioles (34-4), 2012 Nationals (36-3), and 2013 Gothams (32-4).  They came up one win short of tying the 2012 Nats for the best HRL season ever, but they accomplished the ultimate goal of winning the title, something that eluded the 2012 Nats squad.  Not only did they win the championship, but they became only the third HRL team ever to sweep their way through playoffs, and the second to do so in the 3-5-7 format.

Clutch hitting and dominant pitching were the staples of the Rays all season long.  Mippey5 and Huck Finn led Hopkins in ERA for the year, and they had 5 of the 6 highest batting averages in Hopkins exclusive of minimum plate appearances.  Griz led the way with a .445 AVG, 38 HRs, and 71 RBI on his way to the Yellow Slammer Award.  His fellow teammate, Mippey5, was not only voted MVP of Hopkins, but also earned his second consecutive Cy Wiffler Award as well.  The regular season hardware was locked up, but the team award still loomed in the postseason.

Round 1 featured the Rays versus the darlings of Wifflepalooza, the Diamondbacks.  The D-Backs marched all the way through Wifflepalooza behind the sure fire pitching of Lulu and Knooty Booty.  Their reward, play the best team in Hopkins in a best of 3 series.  To their credit, the overmatched D-Backs did not go down without a fight.  They actually struck first in Game 1 against the Rays until the lethal hitting took its toll on Knooty Booty.  The pressure was applied further in Game 2 and the Rays quickly advanced to the Hopkins City Finals.

The three man lineup of the Rangers was next in the way for the Rays.  With a similar lineup of balance hitting and solid pitching, the Rangers would not go down without a fight.  Game 1 proved to be a battle as it required extra innings to come to a conclusion.  Ultimately the clutch hitting and playoff experience of Taco put the Rays on top with a walk-off HR in the 7th.  Mippey was his usual dominant self on the mound in Game 2 and more balanced hitting by the Rays, specifically Griz and Hondo, led to another victory for a team marching to another series sweep.  Game 3 was another battle between the top squads in Hopkins.  The Rangers could not muster enough timely hits to keep up with the Rays lineup once again and eventually the Rays finished the series off with a 5-2 win.  Awaiting the Rays was now the Kardinals; one of only four teams to best the Rays in the regular season.

Game 1 of the World Series was played at Central Field in Hopkins.  The Kardinals were the first to score in the series with a first inning HR by Meesta. Mippey5 settled in and allowed only 1 more baserunner the rest of the game and his team pick up the slack on the offensive end as well. Hondo went 4-4 against Boom with a HR, and another HR by Taco and Rays take Game 1, 3-1.

Game 2 started nicely for the Kards with a second straight 1st inning HR from Meesta.  Then it got ugly, really ugly.  In the bottom of the 1st after walking the bases loaded and walking in the first run of the game, Tootin had to pull Walla from the mound.  Cobra Kai came in relief to do his best, but a couple more walks and a few hits and the damage was done.  Rays put up 6 total runs in the 1st, 2 more in the 2nd and cruise to another victory.  Rays were now in control of the World Series with a commanding 2-0 lead.

With the series shifting to Pilot Knob, the Kardinals jumped out early once again on the Rays with HRs from Tootin and Cobra Kai in the bottom of the 3rd.  The Rays strike right back in the top of the 4th with a game tying HR from Mippey5.  Despite the Mippey5 HR, Game 3 looked it was the one for the taking for the Kardinals of Eagan to get back in the series.  But then the wheels fell off.  In the 5th inning, Taco hit a single to right which turned into a circus in the field for the Kardinals.  Taco kept running and the Kards threw the ball all over the place.  That ends up being the game winning run for the Rays.  An insurance run in the 6th and the Rays win Game 3, 5-3. 

By Game 4 it seemed that the writing was on the wall.  Ironically enough, the Kardinals get the first run of the game again on a Cobra Kai HR.  But the usual story unfolds, the Rays plate 2 in the top half of their inning and add 3 more in the 5th with 2 HRs from Smallpox and another from Taco.  Another HR from Cobra Kai was not enough in the 6th as the Rays down the Kardinals 5-2 to take Game 4 and sweep the World Series.

It was a fitting end to a dominant season by the Rays.  From start to finish they showed that they were the most complete team in the league.  Pitching, check.  Hitting, check. Defense, check. Experience, with Hondo and Taco on board, double check.  In retrospect the opposition might not have needed better pitching or multiple HRs; but a semi-truck filled with jello shots, chew, and pickles to take this team down.  They were built to win and win they did.  Now on to another offseason of speculation and teams re-building on the fly to challenge the Champion Rays in 2018. 

What else could be better than that?

Posted in: HRL

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