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Explorers take Empire League crown


Monday, August 08, 2016 5:28PM

Rindge’s NH Wild baseball team may have been knocked out of postseason play, but the season continued with the championship series. The New York Sullivan Explorers  defeated the Watertown Bucks by a score of 8-6 to win the first Empire League championship.

The Explorers dashed any hopes the Bucks had of winning a championship by prevailing 8-6 in Game 2 of the Empire Professional Baseball League finals before a turnout of 136 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Putkonen, who is Sullivan’s player-manager, and Jackson both played last year on the Newburgh Newts, who swept the Watertown Bucks in two games to win the North Country Baseball League title.

“This is special,” said Putkonen, who finished last season as Newburgh’s player-manager. “I’ve been fortunate to be on good teams and it’s just our mentality. We found a new mentality about midway through the season, the guys bought into the system, we executed and we came out on top.”

This time, they teamed up to help spark the Explorers to the first-year EPBL’s title in a two-game sweep of Watertown in the finals.

The result left the Bucks — particularly manager Simon Walters — almost at a loss for words.

“You have no idea,” Walters said when asked how disappointed he was with the outcome. “In two games, we got like only four innings from our starters. So it’s disappointing.”

Watertown finished the regular season with the league’s best record (35-21) after winning both the first- and second- half titles.

But the Bucks, who lost the first game 8-7 on Tuesday, never led in the championship series against the red-hot Explorers.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Watertown left fielder Javier Marticorena said. “We came in after we clinched both (halves) of the season and we kind of expected a little better performance. But baseball is a strange game.”

Sullivan won 11 of their final 13 games to win the league title, including generating a nine-game winning streak to qualify for the postseason.

“It’s amazing, this is a very blessed feeling,” said Jackson, who was named the EPBL’s playoff MVP. “It’s been a long year personally, but when you come out here and play for your team, it all works out in the end — and that’s what it’s all about.”