Baby Bombers 2013 Playoff Log: Thunder sweep Harrisburg to claim Eastern League title

09/13/2013 12:00 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

The Trenton Thunder went 6-0 en route to the 2013 Eastern League crown.(Trenton Thunder)
The 2013 postseason was truly a perfect one for the Trenton Thunder, and it ended with the franchise's first Eastern League championship since 2008.

After sweeping Binghamton in the Eastern Division Championship Series, Trenton completed a sweep of Harrisburg in the Eastern League Championship Series, claiming an 11-3 decision on Wednesday night to finish the playoffs a perfect 6-0.

The finale was all offense for the Thunder, as much like they did in Game 1 of the ELCS, Tony Franklin's squad exploded for a big inning early, cruised through the middle innings, and piled on late to cement the victory.

Also like Game 1, that big inning was the third, as Trenton sent 11 men to the plate and scored five runs, doing most of that damage with two outs. Ali Castillo flied out to start the inning, and after a Mason Williams bunt single, Harrisburg starter Nate Karns got Ramon Flores to fly out - and that was the final out he would record.

Karns hit Jose Pirela with a pitch, and in order, Gary Sanchez singled, Tyler Austin tripled, Kyle Roller doubled and Ben Gamel walked to make it 4-1 and Ben Gamel then walked to end Karns' night. Reliever Matt Swynenberg walked Reegie Corona and then Castillo to make it 5-1 before finally retiring Williams to end the inning, but by then the damage was done.

Trenton made it 7-1 in the fifth thanks to a two-run homer by Castillo, and after Harrisburg fought back to chase starter Shane Greene and make it 7-3 in the sixth, the bullpen all but shut the Senators down as the Thunder a run in the eighth and three more in the ninth to salt the game away.

Branden Pinder allowed one unearned run in the final half-inning, but it was too little, too late. When Mason Williams gloved Jeff Howell's fly ball to end the game, the Thunder mobbed each other in celebration.

Despite a shaky start, Greene (5.1 IP, 3 R/2 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 6 K) ended up the winner, just as he had in Game 3 of the Division Series. Pat Venditte put out the fire in the sixth and ended up retiring five of the six batters he faced, Zach Nuding worked around two hits in a scoreless eighth and Pinder (1 IP, 1 R/0ER, 3 H, 1 K) finished it out.

Offensively, it was a total team effort, as all nine starters chipped in somehow; the Thunder banged out 16 hits, with all nine starters recording at least one, and eight of the nine - all but Gamel, who happened to be 3-for-3 with two walks - driving in at least one run.

And, to add to the honors, a somewhat-unlikely candidate in Ali Castillo was named Playoffs MVP, as the shortstop who hit just .228 between Tampa and Trenton this year finished the six-game postseason with a .381 average, four extra-base hits and six RBI.

The 2013 Eastern League Championship is the third in Thunder history, with all three of those coming during Franklin's seven-year tenure at the helm. This was Franklin's 34th season serving as a coach or manager in the Minors, and while the venerable 63-year-old has often expressed his desire to coach in the Majors someday, he offered after Thursday's win a somewhat-jocular preview for what 2014 might look like in New Jersey's capital.

"If it all works out, I'll be back." 

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