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Governors' Cup First Round Preview - September 4, 2019

September 4, 2019 - International League (IL) News Release

Four Teams Ready to Battle for 2019 International League Title

It took one day longer than planned, but the 2019 International League regular season concluded on Tuesday with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre defeating Syracuse in a thrilling play-in game to clinch the North Division title and secure the last available entry into the playoffs. The RailRiders now head south to face the Wild Card winners and defending Governors' Cup champion Durham Bulls in a semi-final series beginning tonight.

SWB and Syracuse finished even, necessitating a one-game showdown Tuesday at PNC Field. The Mets jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, and later were ahead 13-6 before a furious comeback by the RailRiders resulted in an amazing 14-13 victory. The reward is a matchup with the Durham Bulls. SWB and Durham have met for the League title four times since 2008, including the last two finals series which were each won by the Bulls. First pitch at Durham Bulls Athletic Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

At the same time, 350 miles to the southwest in Lawrenceville, Georgia, the League's other semi-finals series gets underway pitting the South Division champion Gwinnett Stripers against the Columbus Clippers, a franchise aiming for a record eleventh Governors' Cup. Gwinnett has yet to win the Cup since beginning play in 2009.

Both semi-finals series are between opponents who split their regular season series with each other 3-3. Six wins are required to navigate the two best-of-five rounds and come away as 2019 Governors' Cup champions, earning a date in the Triple-A National Championship Game Presented by Ephesus Sports Lighting on Tuesday, September 17 live on FOX Sports.

Meet the 2019 Governors' Cup Contenders

COLUMBUS CLIPPERS IL West Division Champions

The Clippers boast the International League's best regular season record for 2019, finishing 81-59. They were the first team to clinch a postseason berth and their 15.0-game advantage in the West over 2nd place Indianapolis was easily the largest margin for any division winner in Triple-A this year. Under the tutelage of first-year skipper Tony Mansolino, the Clippers crushed 213 home runs this season, the third-highest total in the history of the International League. Columbus has won three Governors' Cups during the decade, including back-to-back titles in 2010-11 and another in 2015, but this is the club's first trip to the postseason since being defeated in the semi-finals by Gwinnett in 2016. Affiliates of the Cleveland Indians have won the Governors' Cup eight times, 2nd only to the Yankees in IL history. Meet the 2019 Governors' Cup Contenders

DURHAM BULLS Wild Card

Since the Governors' Cup playoffs began in 1933, there has been just one franchise to hoist the trophy three straight times (1979-81 Columbus Clippers). The 2017-18 champions are back this season to take their shot at history, but it took every win they could muster to advance past the regular season this time around. In his first year at the helm, manager Brady Williams piloted the Bulls to a record of 75-64, which was even with the Charlotte Knights for 2nd place in the South and for the Wild Card berth. Durham narrowly edged out Charlotte in their season series 12-11, which was the factor that gave the Bulls the Wild Card. Durham was defeated on the season's final day by Gwinnett, but Charlotte's extra-inning loss at Norfolk clinched it for the Bulls. Durham has made it to the finals each of the last four times they've been in the playoffs.

GWINNETT STRIPERS IL South Division Champions

The Gwinnett franchise is playing in the Governors' Cup playoffs for the third time after fighting off Durham and Charlotte to claim the 2019 South Division flag. IL Manager of the Year Damon Berryhill led the Stripers to a record of 80-59, just a half-game behind their first round opponents for the top regular season mark in the entire League. The Stripers boast a unique blend of offensive power and superior pitching. Gwinnett shattered the franchise record for home runs this season, breaking the old mark in late June. The Stripers pitching staff allowed the fewest runs in the League. Of the four playoff managers eyeing the Governors' Cup this September, only Berryhill (in his third season) is not new to the IL in 2019. Gwinnett's only ever series win in the Governors' Cup playoffs came in 2016, a first round 3-1 victory over Columbus. That squad then fell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the finals, 3-1.

SCRANTON/WB RAILRIDERS IL North Division Champions

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are back in the playoffs for a fifth straight season, winning their fourth division title since 2015 in thrilling fashion. They were pushed to the absolute brink of elimination by the red hot Syracuse Mets down the stretch, but the RailRiders have arrived in the playoffs once again. Manager Jay Bell's squad hit 212 home runs this season, the fourth-highest total in League history. They are the only one of the four playoff teams with a losing record on the road this season, going 31-39 away from home compared to an impressive mark of 45-26 in the friendly confines of PNC Field. The home of the RailRiders has been the site of the last two Governors' Cup championship presentations, but each was made to the Durham Bulls. After their first two Cups were clinched at Durham in 2008 and at Gwinnett in 2016, the RailRiders hope to finally win the Governors' Cup in their home park in 2019.


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