Winnersville's influence has carried over into this month's minor league baseball playoffs.
Former Valdosta High player Buck Coats is playing for league championship this week. And former Lowndes High pitcher Aaron Taylor is going from a chance at a minor league title to a major league pennant race.
In addition, former Valdosta High and Valdosta State pitcher Andy Boutwell's latest team is going for a title.
Instead of going to Tulsa to open the Class AA Texas League championship series Monday night, Taylor was diverted to Arlington, Texas, to join the Seattle Mariners for their game with the Texas Rangers. The Mariners are ia a fight for the American League West title or a wild card berth in the playoffs.
Seattle immediately used Taylor Monday night. He pitched a scoreless seventh, but allowed four runs on four hits -- including home runs by Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro -- in the eighth.
Both Taylor and Coats have contributed toward the playoff success. Taylor, the closer for San Antonio of the Texas League, got saves in each of the three semifinal wins over Round Rock. San Antonio, the Class AA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the series.
Coats is hitting .360 in the postseason as Lansing, a Class A team of the Chicago Cubs, has advanced into the Midwest League finals. Coats had two doubles and four RBI in the semifinal series.
Lansing opened the championship series Monday night at Peoria.
Taylor, a Double A all-star, was 4-3 with 24 saves during the regular season. He struck out 93 and walked but 34 in 77 innings.
Coats hit .257 with four home runs and 47 runs batted in. He had 21 doubles and four triples.
Boutwell's Stockton team, an advanced Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, opens the California League finals Wednesday versus a team to be determined.
But Boutwell, who joined Stockton after an all-star first half at Dayton, won't be playing. An arm injury in late July sidelined Boutwell for the rest of the season.
At both Dayton and Stockton, Boutwell was 9-2 in 23 games. He stuck out 137 in 122 1/3 innings.
Three other players were part of the post-season, though their teams lost in the first round. Former Valdosta State pitcher Scotty Layfield advanced with New Haven, a Class AA St. Louis Cardinals affiliate. He pitched in one game as New Haven was eliminated.
Layfield was 6-4 for 24 saves and a 2.35 ERA during the regular season. He struck out 63 and walked but 24 in 65 innings.
Former Valdosta State pitcher Corey Wachman had similar results for Billings, a Rookie League team for the Cincinnati Reds. He got in one game before Billings was eliminated.
Wachman was 1-3 with two saves and a 6.18 ERA. In 39 1/3 innings, he struck out 38 and walked 17.
Former Valdosta State pitcher Jason Bulger turned a late promotion to Lancaster, an advanced Class A team for the Arizona Diamondbacks, into a place in the post-season. Bulger did not pitch as Lancaster lost in the first round.
At both Lancaster and South Bend, Bulger was 5-10 in 22 games. He pitched 104 2/3 innings, striking out 96 and walking 42.
Also, Valdosta resident Jeff Garber's Wilmington team in the advanced Class A Carolina League was upset in the first round of the playoffs. The Blue Rocks won both halves of the season, but lost to Lynchburg in the playoffs. The Blue Rocks were 89-51 this season.
It wasn't a healthy end of the season for a number of the area players. Pitcher Scott MacRae (Valdosta State) and Michael Smith (Valdosta High, Valdosta State) and first baseman Matt Herring (Valdosta High, Georgia Southern) all had their seasons shut down early.
Please see McILVAIN, page 4B
MacRae was 4-2 with two saves and a 3.34 ERA at Class AAA Louisville. Smith was 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA. He struck out 28 in 23.1 innings for the Tigers of the Gulf Coast Rookie League. Herring had just 25 at-bats, hitting .200 with four runs and four RBI for the White Sox of the Arizona Rookie League.
Besides Bulger, another
player got a late-season promotion. Former Lowndes High pitcher Tim Drew returned to the major leagues this weekend with an effective relief appearance
Drew pitched 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball Saturday for the Expos against the Braves. He allowed one hit, walking one and striking out two.
Drew was a part of the Bartolo Colon trade earlier this season. He pitched for Buffalo and Ottawa of the Class AAA International League. He was a combined 14-7 in 28 starts.
Goodbye to a trio of minor-league teams or parks in the area.
Columbus played its last game at Golden Park Sunday night, going down 2-0 in the Class A South Atlantic League finals. The Redstixx are moving to Ohio next season.
The Macon Braves fell just short of making the South Atlantic League playoffs last month. The Braves are leaving old Luther Williams Field for a new park in Rome.
And the last game at Wolfson Park is scheduled for Wednesday night, as Jacksonville plays in the Class AA Southern League championship series. The old park is being torn down to make more room for nearby Alltel Stadium, with a new ballpark being built southeast of the current location.
Greg McIlvain is sports editor for The Valdosta Daily Times.
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