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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2018 7:44 pm 
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Borealis Break Camp With Cautious Optimism
Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

April 5, 2027: Grand Junction, Colorado – A mostly quiet offseason - marked most notably by the free-agent signing of The 'Chief', was followed up by a quality spring record of 16-8 - tied with Duluth for tops in the SL, and now the Borealis embark on the 21st season of PEBA baseball by opening up on the Front Range against their oldest rival - the Bears of Bakersfield.

Aurora is coming off another championship run - falling just short of the PEC in a frustrating SLCS with Duluth, while the Bears struggled to finish 89-73, 21 games back of Aurora and in third place. Many experts expect a similar finish -Palm Springs, many point to being the likely second place finisher and challenger for what is likely a wild card spot. Three (mostly) new faces will take the field for Aurora on Opening Day, but let's backtrack 8 seasons to the first of the 4 in 5 year titles for Aurora in 2019 - only four faces remain from that club: Mike Britt, River Pope, 'Stork' Holbrook and, of course, Michel Provost. As the club has remained competitive over the past 8 years (and, really, much longer than that), it has been a team that has seen turnover.

Let's take a look at the Opening Day roster for v2027 of the Borealis.

Starting Pitching
This was a group that was strong last year - and has long been the strength of this ball club, and their going out and signing Luis Nieves for a potential 4-years makes it even stronger - and it showed in the Spring. Mike Provost struck out 19, walked none and allowed no runs - showing that the reigning Golden Arm - a 5-time winner, was already in fine form and ready for Opening Day. 'Tugboat' also looked excellent, with 17 K and only 2 BB. 'Chief' had 9 K, 1 BB and a 2.25 ERA. Carlos Rivera (1.69, 10 K, 1 BB) and Clark Snow (2.81, 16 K, 1 BB) and 'Terror' Diaz (2.25, 23 K, 2 BB) rounded out the 6-man spring rotation - leaving people scratching their heads. GM Will Topham had said, upon announcing the signing of Neives, that 'Chief's role would be that of a 'swing man', but as manager Kata Hayagawa announce his rotation for the first week, it was 'Terror' who finds himself in the 'pen and Neives in the rotation - slotted in the #3 spot. "Luis was brought in to strengthen the staff as a whole - both for this year and in the future - where ever that may take us" said Kata, "and for now, we want to see what he brings us in the rotation - we all know what next season may bring." The Borealis manager was of course referring to the well documented player option held by 'Train Arollin' Provost - but also free-agent-to-be Clark Snow.

What may 2027 bring? Count on the rotation to once more strike out a high number of hitters, with a high K/BB ratio, going deep into games. What Aurora hopes they can curb is the massive number of homers they starters gave up - 90 in all, and Neives gave up 26 last year for Duluth. A drop in K's and an uptick in HRs would seem disastrous for this club.

1. Provost, 2. Smith, 3. Neives, 4. Rivera, 5. Snow
Emergency Starter: Diaz

Bullpen
This crew cost the team dearly all year - unnoticed to the casual eye, but to the of us who follow the club, the inability to hold leads bordered on epidemic - and was exposed in the post-season. For now, this maligned group looks much as it did last year - John Gray will hold down the closer role - where he had a league leading 47 saves (and 5 blown saves to go along with his 8-3 record. Gray looked mostly sharp this spring, with 27 K in 14.2 IP. The turning-38-year old 'Stork' will man one set-up position - coming off his third straight sub-2.25 ERA. Holbrook is expected to split the 8th inning chores with Ron Latour - who, for unknown reasons - some claim injury, threw very little this spring - and was mostly ineffective. In 2026, Latour was perhaps the most effective reliever, allowing only a single homer in 67 IP and a 2.00 to match 'Storks'. Also getting little work in the spring is Felix Pena - and he sure needed it. After 6 mostly effective seasons, 2026 was more of a disaster with a 4.06 ERA. The young Puerto Rican is still counted on to deliver in the high stress innings this year - but he has little room to wiggle. Also being counted on in tight quarters is former-Sandgnat, 'Doberman' Contreras. His spring numbers were shaky - a 4.15 ERA in 8.2 IP, but 9 K and 0 BB. He earned a contract extension with the 1.29 ERA, 42 K work he did over 40 innings last year, and Aurora is hoping that will continue. Continuing the theme of poor spring by the bullpen is newly acquired Dan Field - whose 6.75 ERA, 11 K, 7 BB in 10+ innings might be overlooked as the result of two bad outings. We shall see.

Closer: Gray
Set-up: Holbrook, Latour, Pena, Contreras
Middle Relief: Diaz, Lagerveld, Field

Catcher
Despite his finishing 3rd in the Newcomer Award voting, Manny Castro felt like he still had back-up Domingo Gutierrez breathing down his throat - and for good reason. He was. And 'Fido' responded with a .541 spring. Gutierrez only hit .286, but did power 3 homers, suggesting that Aurora may have the best 1-2 catching corp in the League. Jorge Alonso, the #1 catcher at AAA, his .273. With above average defensive skills, we might expect to see Alonso later in the year - should something happen at the DH spot (and Aurora returns to the 2-headed Catcher trick) or a trade is made (and there's a few high-level teams looking for that last piece behind the plate).

Starter: Castro
Back-up: Gutierrez

Infield
Aurora was really interested in an upgrade here this offseason, but nothing happened. With long-time SS Nick Giles let go (and still without a team), 3/4 of this infield will look like it did last Opening day: 1B Pablo Medrano, 2B Theron Boswell and 3B Mike Britt, with season-ending SS Teddy Loetzsch getting his first Opening Day nod. Britt, beginning 2027 with a new contract, had an excellent spring - his .361 was second best on the club, and his 4 homers and 14 RBI both club spring bests. Aurora had really hoped on him moving over to first this year, but for now, he'll open the year at his familiar third. Britt is coming off his 3rd 30 HR season. His 287 are by far (105 and counting) an Aurora best, as he looks to move from 21st on the PEBA record list into the top 15 (eyes currently set on Pat Lilly at #12, 324). Theron Boswell, who saw his average plummet nearly 30-points, and lack the power Aurora hope he'd bring to the line-up, had a .321 spring and for now seems to be set for the immediate future at 2B. Pablo Medrano may not have had the spring he had hoped for, but there he is. He did have a career-doubling high of 12 homers last year, and does have a tendency to come up with the clutch hit, so his spring .250 (and .245 in 2026) may be overlooked. SS Teddy Loetzsch looked solid, if not spectacular - his .288 as a starter last year and his flexibility around the infield, guaranteed him a job. One of the things Aurora likes most about Teddy is his ability to get on base - walking far more than he strikes out - which in it's own right is infrequently. Lastly we have utility infielder - and pushing Medrano for the starting job at first (or Boswell at second) is Gabe McIntyre, who arguably had his best season last year. After two seasons in the .220's, his .287 was a sigh of relief for a club who thought perhaps this bright future had dimmed. Expect Gabe to get early ABs and push for a spot on the right-side of the infield.

1B. Medrano, 2B. Boswell, SS. Loetzsch, 3B. Britt
Utility: McIntyre

Outfield
River Pope continues to be one of the best hitting machines in the SL not named Pedro Ferringo (an outfielder by trade, but Aurora's starting DH going on 8-years). Both hit .300 for the spring, and although neither will hit many long balls, they get on base and they are disruptive. Last year Ferringo stole 39 bases - getting caught only 4 times. Paul Carlisle joined the .300 Spring club and continued to drive in runs (his 13 were second on the club). Carlisle has been so consistent for Aurora (he has hit 24 homers in each of the past 4 years) that Aurora extended him beyond this year during the off-season. Admin, coaches and fans alike are excited to see two players in particular - CF Tomas Flores, who missed the latter portion (and post-season) last year (after his high-profile acquisition from Duluth), hitting .264 with 14 HR in 126 games. HIs spring .295 was promising. 'Fudd' Martinez, who may or may not be a 'rookie' at this point, but his .257 spring (seen as a step forward after last years .237 in 69 games) and his 25 SB in 28 attempts last year - coupled with his potential power and strong outfield skills suggest it's time for him to make the squad. For now. Aurora is chasing to keep an extra outfielder - the League has upped the roster size to 26, to give them 5 (and make up for Ferrigno's lack of defensive abilities). Some in the press are arguing for another infielder, but for now it's Martinez and Lawrence Justice, who's .184 was by far the worst of the team this spring. Neither of these back-ups play center, leaving the two competent CF on the roster in the starting line-up: Pope and Flores. CFs Nick Heath and Joe Harris were sent back to AAA for 'more seasoning'.

LF. Pope, CF. Flores, RF. Carlisle, DH. Ferringo
Back-ups: Martinez, Lawrence

Expected Opening Day Lineup v. expected Bears SP Neil Maes
1. Ferringo
2. Pope
3. Carlisle
4. Britt
5. Castro
6. Boswell
7. Medrano
8. Loetzsch
9. Flores

It's always difficult to anticipate how a season may go - near impossible with injuries, unexpected trades, poorer than expected play, trades, etc. But in a division where two teams are likely to threaten 100 losses, it's hard for this writer/blogger to expect anything but another division title for the Borealis. Looking at the Sovereign League as a whole, Shin Seiki looks to continue to be relentless with their power, but perhaps they've seen a dip in their starting pitching. The acquisition of Ratz will strengthen their bullpen immensely. Duluth's pitching staff does not look far from Aurora's - and the 'Gnats have a intriguing mixture of youth and new faces in former-Coqui Zhou and international free-agent Kang. Then there's the case of 'Jasper' in Duluth's line-up - are the Champs going to be that much stronger?

I say expect those 4 teams to once again face each other in the Divisional playoffs and, perhaps flip a coin. That said, I write for the Borealis, so my faithful readers, you know where my alliance will lie...

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Michael Topham, President Golden Entertainment & President-CEO of the Aurora Borealis
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Last edited by Borealis on Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:15 pm 
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Topsy-Turvey Start for Aurora
Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

April 12, 2027: Aurora, Colorado – As Mike Provost toed the rubber Opening Day to square off with Neil Maes and the Bakersfield Bears, no one would have predicted this Opening Week to the year. Sure - some may have predicted the low scoring games in the Opening Series with the Bears at Northern Lights (three, 2-1 ball games), but then to head directly off to Japan for the season's first road trip and turn the season's start back on it's head? That's a whole nother bowl of sushi.

The Opening Day outcome (2-1 Bears) saw a prototypical Aurora-Bakersfield game. Provost would last just 5-innings (Aurora's typical early season pitch counts catching up to the Aurora Ace as he struck out 9). Maes would last 7 as both gave up 2nd inning extra base hits to lead off the inning - Figueroa a triple for the Bears, a double for Britt, with each scoring. Contreras would walk the leadoff man in the 7th, who would score on a 2-out single for the winning run. Of note in the loss, Felix Pena would pull his hamstring - shelving him for a likely 7-weeks plus rehab time. The tear was so bad that Castro and Medrano had to help him off the field - he could put no pressure on the leg.

Game 2 of the series - a Bears 8-3 win, was memorable for Randy Smith not having his best stuff (after an excellent spring), Edgardo Diaz having to leave the game in relief with stiffness in his forearm (diagnosed as biceps tendonitis, and a stint on the DL), and perhaps most importantly River Pope going down with a strained oblique trying to make an awkward throw in an attempt to hustle the throw into the infield. He will miss 5-6 weeks. Post-game, he admitted he felt something twinge in his last at-bat. On the plus side - Tomas Flores hit a homer, something that was missing last year when Aurora traded for him to fill the CF spot and hopefully bring some pop to the line-up.

Games 3 & 4 were once again 2-1 affairs, the Bears winning game 3 after Nieves left with 7-shut out innings, only for Ryan Holbrook to allow a 2-out, 2-run homer to Jesus Lopez in the 8th. Clark Snow allowed a Javier Torres homer in the second inning as the only blemish on his 7-inning, 7 K outing. Aurora would stage a pair of 2-oiut rallies in the 4th and 5th, a Boswell double and Ferringo triple being the 2-out catalysts to those rallies as Aurora would finally pick up their first win of the season.

The flight to Shin Seiki may have been grueling, but the journey was extremely fruitful as the Borealis would hit the Evil Evas with a three-game sweep. And nothing says extra-long plane ride as an extra-inning game to start the series - 15-innings to be exact! A double by Pedro Ferringo would get Aurora on the board in the first, but Carlos Rivera would continue a disturbing trend from last year - the gopher ball - allowing 4-homers in his 5-nnings - a pair of which were in the first inning. All, fortunately were solo shots - including a 3rd inning bomb by former-Aurora farmhand, John Dickson (who was traded to RGV, only to have the franchise in it's San Juan form trade him to Shin Seiki). Despite the homers, Aurora got the lead back in the 2nd with a Boswell double, a Martinez triple and a Gutierrez single. Both bullpens were solid into the 15th, where 'Fudd' would leadoff with a single, and after a Gutierrez bunt, Martinez would steal third. Teddy Loetzsch would fail to bring him in, but Ferringo - who had 4-hits on the day, came up with the big 2-out single to begin a three run rally to win the game (Flores and Carlisle singles and a Britt double).

Tomas Flores was the hero in game 2 of the series, with a 2-run homer in the 6th and an RBI double in the 7th for a 4-2 win - a big win in a game when it was Provost's turn to not be so good (a pair of 4th inning doubles leading to 2-runs, coupled with a pair of walks).

Game 3 saw 'Tugboat' returning to the form we are all used to with 8-shut out innings, holding the Evil Evas to just 3-hits, with John Gray picking up his 2nd save of the year. Tomas Flores continued his early season power surge with two homers off Bryan Bedell, numbers 3 & 4 for Flores.

With the team heading back to The Front Range for a visit by Neo-Tokyo - followed by a trip to the Desert to face the Codgers, Aurora's hot hitters for the week are Flores (13-29, 4 HR, 9 RBI) and Britt (12-24, 4-2B).

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:48 pm 
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April Rates a Meh as May Arrives
Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

May 1, 2027: Aurora, Colorado – The season may have started with the Borealis digging itself a hole as they dropped the first three of the season Bakersfield, but the team righted itself as April moved towards May, finishing the month atop the Desert Hills (a 3-game lead over the Bears and 'Dozers), and just a game behind the fast-starting Akira (who have already taken 2 of 3 from Aurora).

Aurora would play most of the month missing 2/3 of their outfield as the previously injured River Pope would be joined by the red-hot Tomas Flores who would pull an intercostal muscle diving for a ball, an injury that would keep the .432 hitting CF out for at least 4 weeks.

The month would become a challenging one, as without Pope and Flores, the team would struggle. CF Nick Heath would manage just .163 in 15 starts in Flores' stead, and 'Fudd' Martinez would fare far less in Pope's place, hitting .067 and fans clamoring for his demotion. To make matters worse, Theron Boswell (.143), Gabe McIntyre (.179), and 'Fido' Castro (.196) combined to hold the Borealis to a .224 AVE over the remainder of April. If not for Pedro Ferringo's .353, the team may have danced along the fringe of the Interstate.

And yet, the team managed to finish April with a 10-7 stretch and a 14-10 record overall.

As usual, it was the pitching that kept the team close. As a staff, they held opponents to a .223 average and 47 R (a 2.54 ERA). The run total may have been somewhat deceiving, as Aurora lost three games by 8-1, 6-0 and 6-1. Remove those three games and Aurora gives up only 1.9 R/G. Led by 'Tugboat' (2-0, 1.02 in 3 GS) and Clark Snow (1-1, 2.22 in 4 GS with a team leading 24 K), the starters posted a 2.66 ERA, with the bullpen a tidy 2.29, with closer John Gray allowing 1 run in 10.7 IP, with 14 K and 2 BB.

Highlights from the 17-game stretch include:

- April 12 v. Neo-Tokyo. Aurora would lose games 2 & 3 of this series, but they were close to being swept by the Akira as they were losing game 1 4-0 heading to the bottom the 8th, where a 5-run inning, highlighted by Mike Britt's 1st homer (a 2-out, 2-run shot) followed by Pablo Medrano's 2-run double to give Aurora the lead.

- April 18-20, v. Palm Springs and Kalamazoo. Luis Nieves (2-0), Clark Snow (5-0) and Carlos Rivera (1-0), dealt consecutive shut-outs that were the heart of a 6-game win streak for Aurora. Nick Heath would hit a 7th inning solo HR to win the 1-0 game.

- April 28 v. Duluth. The 'Chief' squares off with his old team with Duluth's big free agent signee 'Jasper' hitting a 2-run homer to give Duluth the early lead. Former-Auroran Joe Kenny would hit his own solo shot in the 5th, but Teddy Loetzsch would triple home 2, and a pair of single runs in the 6th and 8th would give Nieves his first win against his former Warrior mates.

- Paul Carlisle, who led the team with 6 homers, had two, 2-homer games - against K-Zoo and Duluth, with a team leading 9 RBIs. He hit .278. Mike Britt would launch 4 homers and drive in 8, despite hitting just .232.

The Borealis would finish April with a 6-1 loss to Toyama, and a 14-10 record that is reminiscent of many a quiet April for this squad. May, on the other hand, has been historically a strong month, with the team more often then not, posting single-digit loses. With Duluth, Crystal Lake, Bakersfield and Okinawa on the schedule, it balances out the Reno, K-Zoo and Fargo (x2) on the docket.

For Aurora to match their history, the offense will need to improve and overcome the short-term loss of Pope and Flores. We may expect the pitching to maintain something close to their April numbers, but 5 starters hitting under the Mendoza Line will not cut it - and that includes Manny Castro, who has Domingo Gutierrez chomping at the bit, waiting for a shot at the starting catcher position.

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Michael Topham, President Golden Entertainment & President-CEO of the Aurora Borealis
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2018 2:55 pm 
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May Starts a Scorchin'
Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

May 10, 2027: Bakersfield, California – April ended with a rough 6-1 loss to the Win-D's, who pummeled the Borealis with 14 singles, but the calendar turned to May and Just Like That, all was right on the Front Range.

'Terror' and 'Train Arollin'' would hold Toyama to a single run in games 2 & 3 of the series - with Provost also striking out 8, as Aurora would take the first two games of May - and the series. Diaz was supported by an offensive explosion that saw Ferringo go 4-5 and the heart of the order each collecting 2-hits - including 'Fido' stroking a run-scoring double and 2-run homer. Game three saw the teams play an extra frame, with 'Big Whiskey' launching a 2-run, walk-off homer to give Aurora the dramatic win.

Kalamazoo was next up as Aurora hit the road, and 'Tugboat' continued to be masterful, as he would strikeout 9 in 7.2 IP of 7-hit ball. Tomas Moya would finish the game for Aurora. Paul Carlisle's pair of homers - a 2-run shot in the 1st, provided all the Borealis would need to take the opener. Lawrence Justice continues to hit well in Pope's stead, with a 3-5 day that has his average up to .321. Nieves wasn't as fortunate, as he would surrender 5 runs on 7 hits, three of which were doubles that contributed to all three scoring rallies. Lando Lagerveld was likewise unlucky in his outing - a Jake Owens 3-run homer wrecking the Dutchman's line. Ferringo and rookie Nick Heath each had 3 hits, as did Pablo Medrano. rookie Yoriie Yamasaki got his 1st career hit in the loss.

Game 3 of the K-Zoo series saw every starter get a hit for Aurora and every starter, save Pedro, scored as Aurora pummeled the Badgers for 17 hits and 12 runs in a 12-1 win for Clark Snow (3-1, and reliever Ron Latour's 3-inning save). Theron Boswell (#3) would hit a grand slam, and Britt had his 6th homer of the year. Edgar Diaz would twice see Aurora take the lead - only to give it up, twice in his 7 innings - once by his doing, and the second time when the 'Stork' would serve up a 2-out, 2-run homer in the 8th. But for the second time in the month, Aurora would storm back and take the game in the 10th - Gabe McIntyre's lead-off double and a Britt sac fly earning John Gray his 3rd win of the year.

With the 3-1 series in their pocket, the Borealis returned home to face the Champs, who at 18-12, sit a game back of the 'Gnats. Aurora brought a 19-11 record (matching Crystal Lake for tops in the SL) into the series, 3 games up on the Bears. Fans were treated to a premium pitching match-up in game 1 - Provost v. 'Rainmaker', and they were not disappointed. Provost would go 8 innings (with 11 K) and allow only 2 hits - Don Mercer's 2-out homer in the 7th being the only run for the Warriors. Thomas would last 6.2 innings, Manny Castro would hit a 2-out triple to plate Medrano in the bottom of the 7th to tie the game - and end 'Rainmaker's' night (5 H, 4 K, 2 BB). To keep the 2-out RBI parade going, Britt's 2-out single would score Ferringo with the winning run in the 8th.

If you you didn't like pitching and prefer offense, than the teams combining for 21 hits and 12 runs in game 2 was likely more your style. 'Tugboat' wasn't as sharp - he gave up 9 hits and 3 runs in 7 innings - though he struck out 8, but he was still good enough to get his 5th win on the year. Bartolo Esquivel wasn't as lucky as he would surrender 7 runs - though only three were earned - a pair of Paul Dillworth errors would cost the Duluth pitcher 4 runs in the Borealis' 8-4 win. Former-Borealis Eric Perkins pitched 3.2 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball and is posting a 1.73 ERA. 'Chief' wasn't as lucky in his second time out against his former team, despite 7 K, as 7 hits would account for all 4 Warrior runs - solo homers by Jeff Prat and Bobby Wallace doing half the damage, but Duluth starter Kata Nakamura was equally unlucky as the 7 hits he allowed lead to 5 Aurora runs - despite all 7 Aurora hits were singles - perhaps the 4 walks allowed had something to do with it. Mike Britt was 3-4 and drove in a pair of those runs, his 21st RBI, as he upped his season average to .313. The bad news was Paul Carlisle hitting the DL after wrenching his back banging into the wall chasing a fly ball.

Aurora's 5th straight win against Duluth (they struggled to win two in a row last year), and their 8th win against a single loss in May took Aurora's record to 22-11 - tops in the SL and a 5-game bulge in the Desert Hills, with a smoldering 17-16 Okinawa team heading to Northern Lights.

The first part of May has been a boon to the statistical view of the team - the team average up to .256, while the arms have tightened down on opponents to the tune of .213 - with the hitters striking out out nearly 100 fewer than their compatriots in the other dugout (and nearly walking twice as frequently - both typical Aurora outcomes). The pitchers seem to have reduced the gopher balls, which has helped offset the Borealis' typical poor showing there (26 in 33 games).

Ferringo is leading the team at .345 with Justice coming in second at .329 - a good thing with Pope and Flores on the DL, and now Carlisle all looking at DL time, and 'Fudd' Martinez struggling at .113. Carlisle is leading the team with 8 homers, Britt has 21 RBI (and 6 homers), and Ferringo has 8 SB in 9 attempts.

'Tugboat' is 5-1, with a 2.00 ERA and Clark Snow is looking improved over last year (he's allowed 9 homers in 16 starts, after allowing 30 in last years 32 GS), with a 1.93 ERA. Provost has 50 K and just the 3 walks - as we have come to expect from 'Train Arollin'', while John Gray has allowed but 1 run and has 35 K in 22.1 IP, with 11 saves in 19 appearances. Also looking good out of the 'pen has been Ron Latour, who is posting a 0.53 ERA in 17 IP.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2018 4:10 pm 
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Slight Hiccup Then May Rampage Continues
Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

May 21, 2027: Fargo, North Dakota – Even the hottest teams have their blips, and for the Borealis a tough 4-2 loss to Okinawa and a pair of 4-1 losses to the Zephyrs only slowed Aurora's progress towards their goal, before exacting a little revenge on their rival Bears.

The Shisa followed Duluth to Northern Lights and after taking the first game 4-2, handing Clark Snow his second loss of the year, the Borealis bounced back behind 'Terror' Diaz and 'Train Arollin'' for 8-3 and 4-2 wins to take the series from the Shisa. Aurora would continue their winning ways with 'Tugboat' on the mound for a 5-2 win over the Zephyrs before the offense took a siesta for two days - managing just a run in each of games 2 & 3 of the series with Reno - Ricardo Aguilar allowing 5 H and a run over 8 innings in game 2 and Jose Martinez nearly matching that effort with 7 innings of 1-run, 6-hit ball - with 9 K against the typically tough Aurora line-up. 'Chief' and Snowie took the losses. Randy Smith would leave that first Reno game with back stiffness, and taking no chances - as we so often see Aurora do, he promptly found himself on the DL, with Tomas Moya getting the call to fill the void.

And so it was there that the 25-14 Borealis headed to the California 'desert' - really the lower portion of the Central Valley, to square off with the 19-20 Bears. After opening the season with three straight loses to Bakersfield, the Borealis were out to extract a little payback.

And mostly in typical Aurora-Bakersfield fashion, the Borealis did just that.

Game 1 had Edgardo Diaz on the mound and he was dominant in his 7.2 IP. he would allow just 3 hits as he would team up with Xavier Diaz for a 6-0 shut-out - dropping Diaz' ERA to 0.94. It would be a 1-0 game up to the 8th - a Teddy Loetzsch 2-out RBI single being the day's only run, but Tomas Flores would drive his 6th homer - a 3-run shot to break the game open in the 8th. The final would be 6-0. The Borealis would get excellent pitching again in game 2 - Mike Provost would go 8 innings and allow 3-hits - but unfortunately one of the three was C Andrew Baker's lead-off homer in the 3rd; Baker's first career homer. Boswell's 2-out double and a Medrano RBI single would tie the game - which would go 15-innings - 7 of which the Aurora bullpen of Gray, Holbrook and Contreras would allow just a single baserunner. Rookie CF Nick Heath would lead the 15th off with a triple and Gutierrez would drive him home for the win.

Maya would get his first start of the season - a Steve McDonald homer the only blemish on a 6 inning performance. The bullpen continued to look good as the offense made 11 hits count in a 4-1 win, a win that featured Pablo Medrano's first homer of the season. Aurora found themselves going for the 4-game sweep, with 'Chief' Nieves on the mound, and yet again, Aurora's starters were lights out - 8 IP, 5 H for 'Chief' - though a pair of solo homers tainted his line. Lead-off walks in the top of the 8th and 9th would win it with Aurora as the tying and winning runs would both score off those walks on sac flies.

The win - and 4-game sweep of Bakersfield, gave Aurora a 29-14 record and a 9 game lead in the Desert- Hills - over the surprising Yumans. Aurora will pack their bags for the Great North to take on the 20-23 Dinosaurs before returning to Northern Lights to take on the Sandgnats and a rematch with Fargo.

Things of note:
- Manny Castro, last years rookie catching sensation, has struggled all year and has found himself benched and replaced by last years rookie catching back-up, Domingo Gutierrez who's .267 looks a whole lot better than Castro's .194.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:36 pm 
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Borealis Blaze Through May, Open Up Lead
Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

June 1, 2027: Aurora, Colorado – After their pair of frustrating losses to the Zephyrs, Aurora blitz the Bears at YUM! and continued that streak in Fargo with three wins on the Dino's home field, before they returned home to face the 'Gnats and Fargo once more - bringing the second month of the season to a close. Single loses to Crystal Lake and Fargo at Northern Lights - and a win v. Yuma on the 31st, left Aurora with a 37-16 record, a full 12 games up on surprising 2nd place Reno, and 4 games up on the Evil Evas for the SL top seed.

The first Fargo series of the month was highlighted by Clark Snow's continued fine work - 6.1 IP for his 4th win, with his ERA settling in at 2.43. The maligned 'Fido' Castro supported Snow with 3 RBI's - a 2-out, 2-run homer being a key, while Mike Britt's 8th HR of the year to lead-off the 4th got the Borealis on the board. In game 2, Carlos Rivera may have sealed his fate as a rotation front-runner, allowing 5 runs - including 2 homers, in his 5.2 IP, but in typical Aurora fashion these days, the Borealis pounded 14 singles and a double to score 10-runs, with Lawrence Justice (3-5, 2 RBI) and 'Big Whiskey' (2-3, 3 RBI) being the big contributors. Roberto Martinez' 2nd homer of the season in Game 3 was the highlight of a 4-run 3rd and that 4 runs would be all Aurora would need to sweep the series with a 4-2 win in the finale. 'Terror' Diaz continues to look in command - a homer by former-Bear Gilbert Murray in the first being the one real blemish.

The 'Gnats came to The Front Range as Aurora returned home, and Tony Cuellar and Mike Provost showed us the peculiar nature of stats. Cellar would win his 7th game (against a single loss), despite finishing the game with a 4.43 ERA. Provost, meanwhile - who allowed back-to-back homers to Stephan Hooper and Tony Parker in the 3rd (an inning in which he hurt himself with an error), saw his record drop to 2-3, despite a 2.66 ERA. The Sandgnats and Borealis would play the next two games in fine 'Post-season' fashion - tight, taut games - with Aurora winning both in walk-off fashion. With 'Tugboat' unable to make the call in Game 2, Moya, Diaz, Holbrook and Gray would manage to steer the course of the game, keeping Aurora tied so that back-up CF Nick Heath could lead-off the 9th with a homer to win the game. It was Heath's second homer of the year, and was Aurora's second of the game - Heath had also scored on Manny Castro's 5th on the year. Both the little used Heath and recently relegated to the bench Castro had 3 hits on the day. Nieves and MacCowan both pitched deep into game 3, both gave up double-digit hits and both gave up 3-runs, but Mike Britt's 2-out RBI single off Jon Francis in the bottom of the 9th would give Aurora the win and the series over their long-time nemesis. Ferringo and Justice would each have three hits, with Lawrence Justice - filling in for Paul Carlisle, seeing his average inch up to .311.

After a nice day off at home, Fargo came to town to face the Borealis team that had just swept them and that was on a 9-1 streak. Clark Snow once more took on the Dino's and a pair of solo homers were about all the damage he suffered in his 6 innings, with Dan Field closing out the final 3-innings and allowing a run. But, once again, the Borealis pointed out double-digit hits (13) and made the most of them. River Pope would hit his first homer of the year - a 2-out grand slam in the 7th - part of a game winning 6-run rally to give Aurora an 8-4 win. Rivera - in search of redemption, matched Fargo Ace Ernesto Molina pitch for pitch over 6 innings, both leaving with the game tied at 1. But the Aurora 'pen showed why it was tops in the SL, while Bernardo Moreno showed why he wasn't, and River Pope's 2nd homer and a 'Fudd' triple put Aurora over the top in a 5-2 win, and their 11th in 12 games. Diaz struggled in game 3, and yet, he left the game tied at 4, and when John Gray took the mound for the save in the 9th, his control inexplicably left him as he loaded the bases, gave up a pair of runs, with his blown save (his first) became a loss (his first as well). Of note, Pedro Ferringo was 2-4, and upped his average to .352.

And so we turn from yet another scorching May - the norm here on The Front Range for the Borealis and we focus on June - a month that gives us a feast of Yuma (for three series), Japanese food (Okinawa, Toyama and Neo-Tokyo), just two off days and the Draft. It is that next piece that should be interesting as Aurora has a pair of picks in each of the first three rounds - owning the rights to West Virginia's first three picks.

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Michael Topham, President Golden Entertainment & President-CEO of the Aurora Borealis
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