The Central League has given the top two teams in the final regular-season standings a first-round playoff bye for as long as anyone on the Glen Rock roster can remember.
With Stoverstown quickly running away with the Central regular-season title, the real race came down to who would finish second behind the Tigers.
Manchester held that spot for awhile until "The Rock" caught fire during an 11-2 stretch that began in late June and extended into mid-July. That hot streak cemented Glen Rock firmly in second place for the rest of the season.
"The Rock," however, wasn't satisfied. With an outside chance to catch the Tigers, the Glen Rock players continued to play through some injuries and fatigue to try to catch Stoverstown.
That extra effort fell short. Glen Rock took second in the regular season at 19-11-1 (58 points) behind the Tigers (26-4-1, 79 points).
A change in the playoff structure this season, however, also cost "The Rock" a first-round bye.
Glen Rock players unhappy: The Glen Rock players were understandably upset when they learned about the new playoff format.
Instead of having time off to rest and heal, they would instead be pushed into a best-of-three, first-round series against Pleasureville (12-17-2 in the regular season).
"The league did what they did," Glen Rock manager Mike Knott said. "My thinking is that you don't change what you've already done (in the past), but that's that."
Knott said he became aware of the playoff change just before the regular season concluded.
Rallying to beat Pleasureville: Still, any sour feelings about the playoff format change appeared to have disappeared completely by Tuesday evening.
"We were hoping to have some guys rest and heal, but you have to do what the league says," Glen Rock veteran first baseman Justin Anderson said Tuesday after leading his team to a 9-2 series-clinching triumph in Game 3 vs. the Hawks. "The last two weeks of the season we were trying hard to win the second seed and we ended up playing some guys that were banged up and we had nothing to show for it."
Slow start vs. Hawks: A handful of the players looked forward to having a free weekend before heading into the playoff semifinals. The result was a short-handed squad for Saturday's opener at home against Pleasureville.
The result was anything but surprising. "The Rock" was drubbed handily by the Hawks, 14-2, in Game 1 Saturday.
"They came out Saturday and beat us pretty good," Anderson said. "But then we finally started hitting the ball. We really didn't hit the ball (Saturday) before we started to get it going Sunday (in a 7-3 victory)."
Anderson's bat did most of the damage Tuesday. The left-handed hitting slugger went 4 for 4 with two runs scored and three RBIs. Trevor Walzl (3 for 4, two runs, two RBIs) and Dan Rogers (2 for 4, three RBIs) also had big nights as "The Rock" torched Pleasureville starter Andrew Parks for eight runs and 10 hits over 1 2/3 innings in the clincher.
Up next: Glen Rock will now prepare for backyard rival Jefferson (13-13-1 in the regular season). Game 1 in the best-of-three semifinal series is set for 5:45 p.m. Thursday in Glen Rock.
"We're playing well," Knott said. "We're playing solid together and I'm happy with that."
The other Central League semifinal series starting Thursday will pit Mount Wolf (13-16-0 in the regular season) at Stoverstown.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.