After the completion of almost every game, Andy Etchebarren usually has a routine.
The York Revolution skipper gathers up a plate of food from whatever is provided to the team that night in the clubhouse.
He fixes himself a drink and sits down at the desk in his office. And if the Revs aren't playing Lancaster that night, Etchebarren fires up his small laptop computer to check on what the Barnstormers did.
Well, at least the latter part he's been doing for the past two seasons, as it just so happens York and Lancaster have been the top two teams in the Atlantic League Freedom Division, especially this year.
"Look, we're the best two teams in the league," Etchebarren said by phone Monday evening. "We're playing
With the best-of-five Atlantic League Freedom Division Championship Series beginning Wednesday night in Lancaster, the Revs will face their toughest test yet in their journey for a league-record third-straight championship.
Yes. The Barnstormers (88-52 overall this year) set a new league mark with 88 regular season wins. But Lancaster skipper Hobson has plans beyond that. Hobson, now in his second season in Lancaster, stated as much last week when quoted in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal-New Era.
"I promised people a championship. It's not an option to not win it," he said in the article.
Lancaster: The Barnstormers surely have the advantage on paper. On the offensive side, Lancaster has three batters (Blake Gailen, Adam Godwin and Fehlandt Lentini) leading the league in batting average.
Outfielder Ryan Harvey's 27 homers is second in the league behind York's Chris Nowak. And Lentini (92) and Gailen (89) are top-four in the league in RBIs.
The Barnstormers' pitching might be even better.
Three Lancaster starters (Alan Johnson, J.D. Durbin and Dwayne Pollok) are in a four-way tie with York's Corey Thurman for the league-lead in wins (14). Pollok also has the league's best ERA (2.30).
York: The Revs (79-61) will counter with offensive forces in Nowak and second baseman Andres Perez. The pair combined for a club-record 57 homers this season -- Nowak with a league-leading and club-record 34 to Perez's career-high 23. Perez's .314 battinga average is fourth in the league while his 86 RBIs are fifth.
On the pitching side, York will likely rely on the arms of Thurman (14-3) and left-hander Ryan Feierabend (9-5) to start the first two games. Feierabend is clearly the ace with a 2.71 ERA, which sits third in the league.
Evenly-matched teams: Like last year, it appears York and Lancaster could be headed for a deciding Game Five in the best-of-five divisional series. The clubs split their 20 regular season matchups.
Thirteen of those games were decided by three runs or less, with York winning seven of them. Lancaster averaged 5.2 runs in those 20 games to York's 4.8 runs per game average.
Both teams will enter at or near the top in the league in nearly every offensive category.
It should also be noted that Lancaster went 12-11 in their final 23 games while York is entering the series playing its best baseball of the season having won 16 of their last 20 games.
Yet, Etchebarren said all of those numbers can be thrown out of the window when the action gets under way.
"We played awful good the last six weeks. That's all I can say," Etchebarren said. "But you know what? In a short series anything could happen. We could sweep them. They could sweep us. Or it could go five games."
---The Barnstormers are aiming for the club's second league title, last winning it in 2006.
---The Revs are attempting to become the first team in league history to win three straight championships.
---Lancaster manager Butch Hobson won his only Atlantic League title in 2000 when he managed Nashua.
---In their 20 regular season matchups, Lancaster outscored York, 104-95. The Barnstormers' offense had a .313 batting average in those games to York's .271 average.
--Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.