TEXAS CITY, Texas—Texarkana manager Chris McKnight believes the Continental Baseball League championship is within the Gunslingers’ grasp.
<br />The Gunslingers earned a berth in the best-of-3 championship series with regular-season champion Bay Area by surviving a rain-delayed set with Corpus Christi. Texarkana beat the Beach Dawgs last Monday, 4-3, before three consecutive days of rain left the Dawgs packing for home, and the Gunslingers looking forward to a shootout with the Toros.
<br />Weather permitting, Bay Area and the Gunslingers will open their championship series at 6:35 p.m. at Robinson Field. The second game is scheduled for 6:35 on Saturday, with a third game slated Sunday if necessary.
<br />“They’ve had their share of rain down there, too,” McKnight said. “I was told if it doesn’t rain anymore the field should be ready for the opener. If not, we’ll probably play a doubleheader on Saturday. If it rains all weekend I don’t know what we’ll do, because I’ve got players going back to school.”
<br />McKnight said right-hander Brian Barr (9-3) will start on the mound against the Toros, with Billy Gleason the likely starter for the second game, and Tyler French if a third game is played. That leaves Judson Smith, Jordan McCavitt and William Jackel for relief.
<br />Bay Area’s pitching rotation has not been released, but right-hander Kevin Cooper (5-3, 1.71 ERA) is a likely candidate. Other possibilities include right-handers Jayson Rachuig (4-2, 0.96 ERA) and Steven DeFratus (0-3, 2.50 ERA). Southpaw Kelly Sherrer (1-1, 2.05) has also started recent games for the Toros.
<br />Reliever Russell Revere (8-3, 1.84 ERA) is the CBL’s Pitcher of the Week.
<br />The Toros also enter the title series with the highest team batting average. Kyle Wells ranks second in the league behind Texarkana’s Anthony Edwards with a .313 average. Greg Plecki was fifth at .297 with 29 stolen bases. Grant Massie, Joe Hicks, Ben Burum and Eric Brown have all been solid performers for the Toros, who finished the season 43-29.
<br />Hicks was the CBL’s Player of the Week after hitting .381 with a double and homer during the final week.
<br />“Pitching in this league this summer has really been good,” McKnight said. “We know what to expect from Bay Area, and they know what to expect from us. We know each other well. Most of the games we’ve played against Bay Area have been close games.”
<br />Texarkana was 15-9 this season against the Toros, but lost its last two series allowing Bay Area to pass the Gunslingers in the standings en route to the regular-season crown. That streak started when Texarkana blew an 8-0 lead in the seventh inning at home, eventually losing the game, 10-9.
<br />The Gunslingers’ lineup tonight features Sergio Sencion behind the plate, Frank Quintana at first, Brendan Rubenstein at second, Brad Netzel at shortstop, Ray Hastings at third, Pat Burgess in left, Bryan Burkes in center and Edwards in right. Gene Crimoli, sixth in the league with a .290 batting average, will be Texarkana’s designated hitter.