Richmond Flying Squirrels take a swing in their first playoff appearance since 2014

The Flying Squirrels, the double A affiliate of MLB’s San Francisco Giants, play their games at the Diamond in Richmond.

Creative Commons

The Flying Squirrels, the double A affiliate of MLB’s San Francisco Giants, play their games at the Diamond in Richmond.

Cabot Butts, Editor

For the first time in eight years, the city of Richmond will watch their minor league baseball team compete in the Eastern League Division Series of the playoffs. 

Led by first-year manager Dennis Pelfrey, the Squirrels will look to keep the citizens of Richmond happy with a series win over the Erie Seawolves in a crucial game two on Thursday, Sept. 22 as well as a game three on Friday, Sept. 23. The team lost the first game on Tuesday, Sept. 20, meaning that they have to win both of the last two to win the series and move on. 

The Squirrels will look to their main offensive power threat, shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald, to come up clutch, perhaps with games on the line. Fitzgerald has shown, among qualified batters, his power, as well as his ability to get on base. He is ranked 11th in the Eastern League with 21 home runs in 125 games. He also possesses a .424 slugging percentage, good for 25th in the Eastern League.

Center fielder Shane Matheny is another star player for the Squirrels this season. Matheny is also able to effectively and efficiently get on base, as his .377 on base percentage ranks second in the Eastern League. With 12 home runs in 93 games, Matheny has been able to supply power at the top of the batting order all year.

On the defensive side of the ball, pitcher Kai-Wei Teng broke the Flying Squirrels’ franchise record for strikeouts in a season, with 169, in a victory over the Seawolves less than a week ago. Additionally, pitcher Ryan Walker led the Squirrels in wins with seven.

While the Squirrels only went 66-71 on the year, they earned a playoff berth by being the team with the best record in the Eastern League at the halfway point of the season. The players are not the only ones feeling the excitement about the playoff berth; it stretches far beyond, as the city of Richmond will show their support. All but 20 seats have been claimed for Thursday night’s matchup in game two. 

As excited as fans may be about the Squirrels being in the playoffs, a packed Diamond is nothing new to the team. This year, for the first time in franchise history, the Squirrels led all of the Double-A teams in average attendance, with just under 6,000 spectators a night. 

Interestingly, fan-favorite Frankie Tostado, who has been out since July 24 rehabbing a fractured hand, will be in attendance on Thursday at the Diamond. Despite being out west for a rehab assignment, Tostado realizes that his attendance at the game will not only be good for the team, but will also be a relieving sight for the fans in attendance. Tostado will be signing autographs on the first base side of the field from 5:30-6:00 pm. 

Having lost game one of the series, the Squirrels look to find a groove and win the next two games of the series, both at The Diamond, en route to their first Eastern League Championship Series berth since being swept by the Binghamton Mets in 2014. The second game of the Eastern League Division Series will take place on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 6:35 pm.