’Rid­ers happy with sea­son

SWB fell short of forc­ing a Game 5 in the Gov­er­nors’ Cup fi­nals.

The Citizens' Voice - - SPORTS - BY CONOR FOLEY Staff Writer

MOOSIC — Navy blue Yan­kees equip­ment bags oc­cu­pied much of the free space in the RailRiders club­house Fri­day night.

Play­ers packed them for their trips home, clean­ing out their lock­ers like kids on the last day of school.

Min­utes ear­lier, the Durham Bulls clinched the Gov­er­nors’ Cup cham­pi­onship, knock­ing off the RailRiders in four games and ending SWB’s bid to re­peat as champs.

The mood in the club­house wasn’t one of dis­ap­point­ment. It wasn’t silent. Play­ers held their heads high, shook hands and said their good­byes.

There was a sense of ac­com­plish­ment; a sense of a sea­son well done, even if the re­sult wasn’t what they wanted. Re­peat­ing was al­ways an up­hill climb. Only Colum­bus (2010-11, 1991-92), Toledo (2005-06) and Durham (2002-03) have ac­com­plished the feat since the SWB fran­chise be­gan in 1989.

This RailRiders still posted the league’s best record in the reg­u­lar sea­son at 86-55. The of­fense led the league in runs per game, bat­ting av­er­age, on-base per­cent­age and slug­ging per­cent­age — the first time that’s been done since 2004 — and hit more home runs than any other SWB team in the Yan­kees era. The pitch­ers be­came the first group in fran­chise his­tory to strike out more than 1,200 in one sea­son and led the league in ERA and WHIP.

“I just told them, ‘I’m just go­ing to go home feel­ing good about this team,’ ” said RailRiders man­ager Al Pedrique, who took home his se­cond straight Man­ager of the Year award this sea­son. “The chem­istry, the heart, es­pe­cially what they showed (Fri­day night). And I’m sure the whole or­ga­ni­za­tion saw our game and they’re go­ing to be proud of this group be­cause they never quit.

“The one thing I liked the most is how they wel­comed ev­ery­body that came in from Tampa’s club, from Tren­ton’s club, they wel­comed those guys like they were part of the team, like they were with us from the be­gin­ning, April 6.”

Af­ter Fri­day’s game, third base­man Miguel An­du­jar and re­liever Jonathan Holder were called back up to New York.

An­du­jar played one game for the Yan­kees ear­lier this year and made an im­me­di­ate im­pact, go­ing 3 for 4 in his big league de­but June 28 against the Chicago White Sox. But he still needed time to de­velop, and New York sent him back to Triple-A the next day.

“I feel good,” An­du­jar said through an in­ter­preter. “Since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, I’ve been work­ing to go to the next step, and now I’m go­ing to the next step, which is New York. So, I’m ex­cited about it and can’t wait to get there.”

Hang­ing ’em up

Eddy Rodriguez called this sea­son the “chance of a life­time.”

With fel­low catcher Kyle Hi­gash­ioka miss­ing most of the sea­son with in­juries, the 31-year-old Rodriguez stepped into an ev­ery­day role with the RailRiders and played in 83 games, his most since 2013, and tied for the se­cond most in a pro­fes­sional ca­reer that started in 2006.

Now, that ca­reer is “99 per­cent” done.

“There’s still an out­side chance (to con­tinue play­ing),” said Rodriguez, one of the team’s lead­ers. “I have sev­eral things that I’m work­ing on, where things should work out nicely. (If) there’s a crazy op­por­tu­nity, where things work out for me and some crazy team comes and of­fers me some­thing I can’t not take ... but aside from that, this should be my last sea­son.”

He won’t head into re­tire­ment alone. Jonathan Diaz, Rodriguez’s child­hood friend and RailRiders team­mate, con­firmed Fri­day was the last game of his ca­reer, too.

Diaz, 32, reached base four times in Game 4, work­ing a key walk in his fi­nal plate ap­pear­ance.

JA­SON FARM / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Railriders’ Jonathan Diaz tries to tag out Durham’s Willy Adames af­ter he over ran se­cond base on Fri­day.

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