The Albany Athletics (35-9 overall / 20-4 league) successfully defended its Twilight League Championship for the second straight year by sweeping games three, four and five in the League Championship Series after being down two-games-to-none in its Best-of-Five Series with the Blue Slate Bluehawks. It’s the first time since the 1980 Oppenheim Post team that an ATL team has come from two games down to win the Championship Series.

The Athletics, who have now won the last three league championships and five titles in the last six years, lost two extra inning games in games one and two. In game three, Chris Smith (win) and Jim Shook (save) hurled the A’s past Blue Slate by a 5-3 score. Down 3-1, the A’s rallied for four runs in the 5th inning tying it on an RBI single by Justin Meagher and going ahead on an RBI single by Ben Paniccia.

In game four, Shook threw seven strong for a complete game shutout yielding just six hits and fanning seven batters in a 1-0 win. John Marcella’s sac fly in the first inning produced the only run of the game.

In the deciding game, Shook returned to throw the first four innings giving up just one earned run and striking out six before giving way to right-hander Shawn Ryan. Ryan earned the win by finishing the final three innings giving up one earned run and striking out two batters.

The offense finally exploded with a six-run 3rd inning. Zach Halloran provided the big blow with a two-strike, three-run home run while Meagher and Jason Martin added RBI singles in the inning. JP Sportman homered to lead off the 4th inning to finish the scoring for the A’s.

Shook, meanwhile, earned the league’s Harold Finkle Award (Playoff MVP) once again (2009 as well). He compiled a 2-0 record with a save, 20 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 26 strikeouts, and gave up just 10 hits in the league semifinals and championship series. Teammate Al Barbato won it in 2010 when the A’s needed four games to beat Waterford Nolan Propane in the Championship Series.

This year, catcher Justin Harris led the A’s with a .412 average (7-for-17, 1 RBI) in the ATL playoffs and Meagher hit .333 (7-for-21, 4 RBI) over 7 playoff games. Smith and Ryan were each 1-0 on the mound for the A’s in the ATL postseason while Ryan White went 1-1 and Casey Walsh saved a semifinal game and threw a complete-game loss in the finals.

It was also the 6th consecutive year Albany has won at least 32 games overall while also leading the league in wins every year since 2006.

Back in 2003, the Athletics pushed Davies AC to the limit when they came back from two games down to tie the series, but lost to Davies in the 5th game. Last year, the A’s lost the first game of the championship series to Nolan Propane but bounced back for three straight wins.

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