Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB)

Atlantic League Championship Series Recap: Barnstormers Win Fourth Title

Atlantic League Championship Series Recap: Barnstormers Win Fourth Title

Here’s a look back at the Atlantic League Championship Series, which ended with the Lancaster Barnstormers defeating the Gastonia Honey Hunters 3-2.

Oct 2, 2023 by Briar Napier
Atlantic League Championship Series Recap: Barnstormers Win Fourth Title

A bad first half of the season? A lack of home runs? Forced to win twice away from home with their season on the line?

No matter, said the Lancaster Barnstormers.

And here the club is now, standing tall as the champions of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball once again.

Atlantic League's Lancaster Barnstormers: What To Know

In a repeat push for the ages, the Barnstormers went from looking far away from the playoff race just a few months ago to capturing a second straight league championship after also winning it all in 2022. They did it through timely plays, searing speed, and a will to not quit when the going got tough, and Lancaster is rewarded with another ALPB title because of it.

Drink it in if you’re a Barnstormers fan; the grind for an unprecedented third straight title next year won’t be easy, but considering where Lancaster was as a club for much of the 2023 season, anything in its way can be conquered if all the pieces align.

Here’s a look back at the Atlantic League Championship Series, which ended Sunday with the Lancaster Barnstormers defeating the Gastonia Honey Hunters 3-2 to lift their fourth ALPB championship in team history:

Barnstormers: Back-to-Back

Welcome to an exclusive club, Lancaster — you just became the first Atlantic League team in a decade to capture repeat league championships. This year’s run to the title, however, was one of Lancaster’s finest yet.

The team was second-to-last and well below .500 at the end of the first-half standings in the North Division, seemingly well off of the pace for a playoff spot and needing a sudden surge of momentum to keep its push for a second straight ALPB crown going. 

The surge did eventually come: Lancaster won the North’s second-half title by 3½ games, finishing the regular season strong on a six-game winning streak, then kept its stretch of victories going with a sweep of the Long Island Ducks in the North Division Championship series to make it back to the Atlantic League Championship Series, where they awaited Gastonia’s advancement. At that point, it became a dogfight. The Barnstormers won Game 1 by a 3-2 margin thanks to a clutch run in the bottom of the eighth inning off of a wild pitch but then fell behind in the best-of-five series 2-1 as the Honey Hunters hammered them for 12 and seven runs in Games 2 and 3, respectively. 

With Lancaster forced to win two games on the road to push back and win it all, it did just that in stunning fashion — Game 4 saw the Barnstormers hold off a late Gastonia rally (in which it scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth) to squeak out a 9-8 win which evened the series at 2-2. Then, in the pivotal Game 5, starting pitcher Brent Teller tossed a seven-inning gem in which he allowed just one run off of four hits with seven strikeouts as his bullpen came in to help finish the job for Lancaster with an eventual 7-1 victory, giving the club the distinction of being the first ALPB team with back-to-back championships since the Ducks in 2012-13.

No Long Ball? No Need

Fans of “small ball” saw a masterclass in how to do it right from Lancaster throughout the Championship Series as incredibly, the Barnstormers went all five games and took the series in the process without hitting a single home run. 

To be fair, it wasn’t as if this was something new from the Barnstormers; they had the fewest homers (112) of any team in the ALPB during the regular season. But where Lancaster has done much of its damage on offense has been through chipping away with a .290 team batting average (the best in the league) and being hyper-aggressive on the basepaths as the Atlantic League’s only team to record over 200 stolen bases, and it utilized its strategy to near-perfection to win a title. 

The majority of the Barnstormers’ runs scored came off of simple base hits as players like first baseman Anthony Cordeo, designated hitter Wilson Garcia, and catcher Jack Conley all had multiple RBIs and games with RBIs during the series, showing how you don’t necessarily need the powerful extra-base hits and long bombs to win ball games. Keep in mind, as well, that the Barnstormers successfully executed their small-ball approach against the league’s leader in homers in Gastonia, a team that, by contrast, hit at least one home run in all five games of the Championship Series. 

But while the Honey Hunters’ exciting blasts out of the park probably created more of the oohs and ahhs from those watching, Lancaster’s approach was the one that saw a team standing tall and holding a first-place trophy at the end of the season.

Climbing Up The Ladder

The now-Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, the Somerset Patriots, still holds the ALPB’s all-time record for most championships won with six, but the hard-charging Barnstormers now have four and appear as if they have a formula built to be in the hunt for more titles in the near future. 

Among ballclubs actively in the league, meanwhile, Long Island and Lancaster stand alone at the top in terms of being the Atlantic League’s most successful clubs, and have the chance for a three-peat in 2024 — which has never happened since the ALPB was founded in 1998 — is now a serious possibility for manager Ross Peeples and the team. 

The coming months will reveal how many integral pieces of the Barnstormers’ back-to-back titles stick around and give it another go with Lancaster, especially as the team’s 2023 title was fueled by multiple key returning pieces. But well-run independent clubs usually tend to find methods to nudge themselves up to the top of their leagues somehow and someway, and Lancaster is among the best and most shining examples anywhere in North America who has been going at it in the field of play in the Atlantic League for almost two decades. 

Enjoy this championship, Lancaster, but with the league expected to expand to 12 teams in the near future, the grind to getting title No. 5 is only going to grow that much tougher. But as the Barnstormers showed when they got over a miserable first half of the season to eventually end it as league champions, a few hurdles in the team’s way can’t stop Lancaster from adding to its trophy collection.