After winning two Northern Division races in one season, the Potomac Nationals won’t have to worry about any bus trips in the first round of the advanced Class A Carolina League playoffs.
Manager Brian Daubach’s team will stay home for the best-of-three divisional series, likely against Braves-affiliated Lynchburg, beginning Wednesday night. Potomac, which has the best overall record in the league at 82-52 (.612), also has the best home mark at 47-23 (.671).
“We’ve played very well at home,” Daubach said Saturday night after a 1-0, 10-inning loss to Wilmington at Pfitzner Stadium. “Guys are confident here. I think we get in more of a normal routine with our cage work, infield practice and batting practice. We’ve got a good setup with our host families and a nice clubhouse, and guys are just comfortable in their surroundings. I think all of it adds up to us playing well here.”
Right-hander Blake Schwartz pitched nine scoreless innings Saturday night and was the Carolina League pitcher of the week for Aug. 19-25. The 23-year-old is 11-4 with a 2.56 ERA in 126 2/3 innings since being called up from Class A Hagerstown, where he opened the year as a part-time starter.
Schwartz is a strong possibility to start Game 1 for Potomac, as he did for Hagerstown in 2012 in the South Atlantic League playoffs when he held Greensboro to one run in five innings but took a 3-1 loss.
Schwartz “attacks the zone will all his pitches in any count,” Daubach said. “He’s mostly fastball, curveball and change-up, and his change-up has really come a long way. His mound presence is similar no matter what, which is good for a playoff atmosphere.”
Potomac clinched its second-half title Wednesday night by winning the completion of a suspended game at Winston-Salem, 8-7. First baseman Kevin Keyes homered in the seventh and 11th innings.
Meanwhile, Hagerstown is one game behind West Virginia in its bid to win both halves in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. The Suns will have to play at least one first-round game on the road, though, because the Sally doesn’t have the same home-field rule as the Carolina League.
Class AA Harrisburg, a first-place team, has a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern League as one of the top two teams in the Western Division. The rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals are playoff-bound at 49-9 (.845).
“It’s only my third year here, but you can see the depth of the organization is growing,” Daubach said. “We’re pretty deep, especially on the pitching end.”