On Friday night, the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp pulled out an 11-inning thriller to secure a playoff spot in front of an energetic crowd of more than 1,300 fans at Schweickert Stadium in Peru.
The Shrimp hope for an even bigger crowd Tuesday when they host the Chillicothe Paints in the Eastern Conference championship game with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. in Peru.
It will be the first home playoff game in Shrimp history.
In their only other playoff appearance in their inaugural season in 2019, the Shrimp lost on the road in their postseason opener.
“The boys thought Friday night was one of the more electric nights at home,” Shrimp owner/manager John Jakiemiec said. “We had [1,300] at that game. I’d venture to guess there will be north of what we had Friday [when we play Tuesday against Chillicothe]. We’re hoping it’s going to be a raucous crowd like some of the road crowds are. It’s great to see the fans in Lafayette [Indiana] really supporting their team and the fans in Danville really supporting their team. It’s just awesome to see the communities in the Prospect League really showing the love and support for their teams. We know we’re going to get that Tuesday from our fan base.”
The Shrimp (39-21) advanced to the conference title game with an 11-10 comeback win over top-seeded Danville on Sunday, while the Paints routed the Johnstown Mill Rats, 16-0, in seven innings in the Ohio River Valley Division title game.
The Shrimp and Paints split their two games in July in Ohio with Chillicothe winning the first game, 6-2, and the Shrimp taking the second game, 6-0.
“They’re a really, really well-coached team,” Jakiemiec said. “They have a lot of very, very good players. I know lineups have turned over a little bit, and I’m assuming they’ve gone through some attrition like we have.”
On Sunday, Paints leadoff hitter Brett Carson went 4 for 4 with a home run, a double, four runs scored and three RBIs.
No. 2 hitter Santrel Farmer and No. 7 hitter Nate Dorinsky also had four hits each, with Farmer hitting a double, scoring three runs and driving in a pair of runs and Dorinsky recording two triples, three runs and an RBI.
Cleanup hitter Tim Orr and No. 5 hitter Cameron Bowen drove in three runs each.
Orr is third in the league in RBIs at 51, fourth in batting average at .350, and sixth in runs at 49. Farmer ranks fourth in the league in stolen bases with 32 and is ninth in runs with 43, while Jeron Williams is sixth in the league in steals with 29.
“They have some guys at the top of the lineup who are base stealers and guys who can put the ball in play,” Jakiemiec said. “They have a lot of very fast runners we need to make sure earn their way onto base.”
Jakiemiec said the pitching is lined up well for the Shrimp. Zach Losey (4-0, 2.45 ERA, 62 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings) will start with Tucker Bougie (3-1, 2.86 ERA, 59 strikeouts in 44 innings) also available.
“What’s good for us is we know going into the game our pitching resets,” Jakiemiec said. “We have some arms who can compete. I expect it to be another close game. I don’t know what they have left for pitching, but I know they have some very solid pitching, so it should be a very exciting contest.”
The Shrimp-Paints winner will face the winner of the Western Conference championship between the Quincy Gems (32-29) and Alton River Dragons (33-28) in the best-of-three Prospect League championship series Thursday-Sunday.