Gnats Buzz Down to Jacksonville for PEBA Championship Series

By
Updated: August 14, 2017

CRYSTAL LAKE HERALD

SPORTS – GNATS NOW
Gnats Buzz Down to Jacksonville for PEBA Championship Series
Updated: November 15, 2025 – 10:30AM CDT

By Howard Heskin, Staff Writer – Twitter @HowardHeskin1

Image
Jim ‘Nitro’ MacCowan

2024 was the year of the improbable for Sandgnats fans, but 2025 could be just as improbable as the PEBA Championship series starts today in Jacksonville with Jim ‘Nitro’ MacCowan 3-0, 1.61 ERA, 0.85 WHIP getting the game one start against what looks to be Florida’s probable pitcher Kensaku ‘Little’ Gato 1-1, 3.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP.

Image
Kensaku ‘Little’ Gato

The Florida Featherheads are coming off a 4-2 series victory against the Hartford Harpoon which saw former Sandgnats pitcher Francisco ‘Yogi’ Robles now 35 years of age pitch a complete game shutout in game 2 and only allow one run in game 6 to seal the series victory for Florida.

‘Yogi’ took a 6 million dollar pay cut to head over to the Imperial League and pitch for Florida this season. “I understand that league rules prohibited Crystal Lake from paying me what I was willing to accept to finish my career there, but now I’m looking to make them pay this series”, stated Yogi with a grin on his face at the Featherheads pre-series press conference. As part of last season’s Crystal Lake Championship pitching staff, Yogi has experienced the agony of defeat and thrill of redemption during his 13-year career. After blowing a heart breaking game to Aurora in the 2023 playoffs, Yogi rebounded with stellar clutch performances in the 2024 championship run for the Sandgnats.

“I’m still friends with ‘Bizarre’ [2B Jim Klein]”, stated Yogi, “I told him to look out for my 91 MPH fastball, if he doesn’t hook me up with some of that ‘Gnats grape Gatorade.”

Both teams are looking to continue strong second-half season runs. Florida was sitting at a record of 37-33 and Crystal Lake at 36-35 prior to the All-Star Break.

Of note, Florida’s young star 3rd baseman Andy Sharp will be returning to the line-up after being out for 2 weeks with a sore shoulder. Additionally, Florida added some power in the off-season last year resulting in them leading the Imperial League this season with 207 home runs. So, the Sangnats pitching staff will have their hands full with a Florida lineup that can explode at any moment.

Not only will former Sandgnat Yogi Robles be facing off against his old team, but former Sandgnat first baseman Wilson Muñóz will take the field searching for his second PEBA Championship. The star first basemen hit 36 home runs and posted an excellent 105 RBIs this season. Muñóz has been quiet so far during the playoffs, but now in his contract year could be looking to blast a few against his former team.

Muñóz was sent to Florida in the off-season trade that brought in starting pitcher Dean McNeil who will now also face his former team. McNeil has posted a record of 2-2 during the playoffs. He was chased out of Game 5 against Aurora after only 2 innings of work. He will look to rebound as he is presently slated as probable for the game 2 start. Most of his good work has been on the road this season, so he will probably be available for a game 6, if necessary, start when the series returns to Florida.

Crystal Lake skipper Joe Matterson will be looking to guide his team to his personal 4th PEBA Championship this series. In his 14 year career, Matterson has lead his teams to the playoffs all but one season and has 3 rings – two with Bakersfield and one last season with Crystal Lake. “I love this group of guys, they really have exceeded my expectations”, stated Matterson. “We have a good mix of veterans and young players. After Mr. Dole and Mr. Ermola shook up the roster last off-season, it took a while to get this team to gel, but they just keep fighting and that’s what I like to see out there.”

First pitch is at 6:05 CST at Farmer Field in Jacksonville, Florida.