2023 Gastonia Honey Hunters vs Lancaster Barnstormers - ALPB Champ #1

Barnstormers Look To Stave Off Honey Hunters For Atlantic Title Repeat

Barnstormers Look To Stave Off Honey Hunters For Atlantic Title Repeat

Here’s a look ahead at the matchup to decide it all in the Atlantic League playoffs this year — Lancaster vs. Gastonia —streaming live on FloBaseball.

Sep 26, 2023 by Briar Napier
Barnstormers Look To Stave Off Honey Hunters For Atlantic Title Repeat

From April to September, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball has suited up for games on a near day-by-day basis.

Over the next few days, the final days of the 2023 season in the ALPB will take place — and as many as five games will be contested in order to decide the Atlantic League’s newest champion.

From the North Division comes the Lancaster Barnstormers, the reigning and defending champions who brought back stars and are getting standout seasons from veterans in the meantime in their hunt for a second straight title. Arriving from the South Division, meanwhile, are the Gastonia Honey Hunters, one of the league’s newest teams and a club that has hit the ground running and thrived, leaving open the possibility of what could be the newest first-time champ in ALPB history.

Since 1998, the Atlantic League — one of the best independent baseball leagues in North America — has been crowning champions as a proving ground for some of the major league standouts of tomorrow. Over the next week, another season in the Atlantic League’s history will end, and one of the two teams left standing in the playoffs will end it on top. 

Here’s a look ahead at the matchup to decide it all in the Atlantic League playoffs this year — Lancaster vs. Gastonia — with Game 1 of the Championship Series in Lancaster scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. (ET) and be streamed live on FloBaseball:

Lancaster Barnstormers (North Division)

Championships: 2006, 2014, 2022

The lowdown: Back-to-back titles used to be a common thing in the Atlantic League; from 2008-13, in fact, all six league championships were won as parts of repeat wins between the Somerset Patriots, York Revolution, and Long Island Ducks, in that order. 

No one has been able to mimic the feat in a decade since, however, but can the Barnstormers buck that trend and make it two Atlantic League titles in a row? Time will tell, but what a ride it’s been for Lancaster to be even at this point in the first place. 

Finishing second-to-last in the North’s first-half standings with a poor 25-38 record, the Barnstormers closed out the regular season on a six-game winning streak and took home the North’s second-half crown by 3½ games, booking the team’s ticket to the postseason. With a three-game sweep of the Ducks in the North Division Championship series, however — all games of which were won by at least four runs — Lancaster has improved its win streak to nine in a row, making it a downright dangerous squad that no one wants to play at the moment, though one that Gastonia will be forced to go through if it wants to capture its own piece of hardware. 

First baseman Andretty Cordero, one of the stars of the Stormers’ run to the championship a season ago, is amid another massive year in Lancaster featuring almost identical numbers to 2022 as the ALPB’s RBI champion (116 this year) with a .339 batting average. Together in the infield with fourth-year Barnstormer Melvin Mercedes — amid a career year with a .328 average, his best in Lancaster and the fifth-best in the Atlantic League — they’ve both helped the team have the highest team batting average (.290) in the league and pushed them to the heights they’ve reached both in seasons’ past and now. 

The Barnstormers’ pitching stats, all in all, were dinged a bit from their rough start to the season, but right-hander Brent Teller still won 11 games while Jared Lakind went 9-4 and was one of the league’s ERA leaders with a 3.54. 

Few teams in Atlantic League history have had a better September than Lancaster, and if it can close the show with its fourth league championship, it would just put the bow on top of what’s been an epic run to the finish line.

Gastonia Honey Hunters (South Division)

Championships: None

The lowdown: It’s been about year-by-year progression for the Honey Hunters since they were founded and joined the ALPB for the 2021 season. In Gastonia’s inaugural campaign, it missed the postseason. In Year 2, former major-leaguer Mauro Gozzo helped steer the team to double the number of wins (88) as games it lost (44) he was named the Atlantic League’s Manager of the Year, but the Honey Hunters were eliminated in the playoffs before they had a chance to compete for a first-ever league title. 

Now? In the next rung of the ladder, here Gastonia is, three wins away from making club history — but is it finally the Honey Hunters’ time? If you’re basing your pick for the next Atlantic League champion on merely regular-season form, they might just be your pick. Gastonia and the High Point Rockers were neck-and-neck for the entire year in the South, with the latter only beating the former out for each half’s first-place trophy on tiebreakers.


The South Division Championship series showdown between them was destined to be a war, and it absolutely lived up to the hype: Gastonia withstood both losing an extra-inning heartbreaker in Game 1 and a High Point series-tying win in Game 4 to get the job done in a delayed series finale Monday, taking down the Rockers 9-3 off of the back of two clutch late-inning home runs from Jason Rogers — a former Milwaukee Brewer and Pittsburgh Pirate signed by the Honey Hunters less than two weeks ago — to move onto the Championship Series for the first time ever. Long bombs are and have been the name of the game all year for Gastonia as no team in the ALPB hit for more than its 220 and an incredible 11 players smashed at least 10 homers, led by Braxton Davidson and Zach Jarrett’s 25 apiece. 

And speaking of impactful plays that can turn games on their heads, no ALPB pitching staff struck out more batters than Gastonia’s (1,167), led by 13-game winner Zach Mort and his league-leading 147 Ks as he was joined by 12-game winner and teammate Gunnar Kines in the century club (110). Gastonia’s got the juice, the flash, and the fresh, new-team-on-the-block momentum. Does it translate to a groundbreaking first-ever Atlantic League championship, too?