While this was only the second season of the Raleigh Expos 20-over group, the nucleus of the team is made up largely of players from the Raleigh Red Sox team that was a perennial championship contender in the Central North Carolina MSBL 21+ age division for many years. Some of our core players have been members for five seasons. The majority of team that ultimately won the 2015 championship has been together for the last three seasons.
The offense was led by Mike Deveaux, former Philadelphia Phillies top prospect. Mike led the regular season in batting average and was second in both home runs and runs batted in.
The Expos boasted four out of the top ten leaders in batting average, including Brett Cant who led the league with 29 hits.
The team defense vastly improved with the addition of Steve Rayter. Steve spent the majority of the season at the hot corner and proved to be a dangerous middle of the order bat.
In game one of the playoffs the regular season first place Expos faced off against the Chatham Bulls. The Expos defeated the Bulls in the quarter finals then eliminated the Raleigh Woodpeckers to advance to the team’s first championship appearance.
In the Championship Series the Expos would face the defending champions, the Carolina Enforcers, whom the Expos split the regular season with one win each. The Expos would be without one of the league’s top catchers, Will Whitaker. Jesse Bongartz stepped in behind the dish and would become a deciding factor on both offense and defense.
Both games were 1-run affairs won by the Expos, however anyone who witnessed the games would know the victories were in large part due to the performances of some special players. Mike Deveaux crushed three opposite field bombs, two in game one, and added another in game two. On the mound, game one was won by Matt Cox, who threw a complete game gem as well as driving in a few runs to help his own cause. In a tight ball game good defense stands out, and nobody stood out more than Michael Mackey who made not one but two over the shoulder diving plays at second base.
Nathan Ginsberg was the game two starter and threw 8 1/3 outstanding innings, thanks in large part to his defense. With a 1-run lead heading in to the bottom of the seventh, Dan Bertino performed his best Endy Chavez impersonation by robbing Aaron Parnell of a go-ahead home run. But the game would become Alex Shober’s in the bottom of the ninth after Ginsberg would be taken out due to injury. With the tying and go-ahead run on base, Shober came in and retired two of the next three batters. The final out was recorded when Steve Rayter made a diving stop on a hard hit grounder to his left, getting up and touching third base to secure the win and sweep of the championship series against the Carolina Enforcers. The Expos two toughest games of the season deservedly were reserved for the championship series.
At the end of the day we are all weekend warriors who continue to play the game we love. The Expos team is made up of a great bunch of guys who enjoy each others company on and off the field. We can’t wait until the 2016 season starts to have a great time playing baseball and the opportunity to defend our title.