2024 Program - Issue 9

2023: A Ponies Playoff Run to Remember! By: Jacob Wilkins and Matt Levine

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – The Bing- hamton Rumble Ponies had a his- toric 2023 season, highlighted by the franchise reaching the East- ern League Championship Series for the first time since 2014. Binghamton, with a surging sec- ond half in which they went 39- 27, reached the postseason for the first time since 2017, and for the 11th time in franchise history. Under second-year manager Reid Brignac, the Ponies went 18-5 over their last 23 games and swept their Subway Series-rival, the Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees Double-A Affiliate) in the best-of-three Eastern League Division Series. The division series was highlight- ed by Jett Williams’ three-run home run in a 9-2 Game 1 victo- ry, which capped off a dramatic six-run bottom of the fourth. In Game 2, RHP Dom Hamel led the way in a 2-0 victory to win the series. Hamel allowed just three hits over seven and two thirds’ innings with eight strike- outs and only two walks. Second-half surge The Ponies’ second half was highlighted by the Mets’ mid- season acquisitions, Luisangel Acuña and Drew Gilbert , being assigned to Binghamton. Acuña, acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Max Scherzer trade, had 57 stolen bases on the year between Double-A Frisco (Texas) and Dou- ble-A Binghamton. Gilbert, acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander trade, had a .325/.423/.562 slash line with a .984 OPS over 35 games with the Rumble Ponies. Gilbert quickly established himself as a clutch performer, showcased by his game-tying three run homer in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series against Erie. He also patrolled centerfield with fierce intensity resulting in terrific catches. The 23-year-old was the Astros’ first-round pick in 2022

out of the University of Tennes- see. The Ponies’ offense was also pro- pelled by the second-half return of 1B JT Schwartz. Schwartz, the Mets’ fourth-round pick in 2021 out of UCLA, returned from injury on July 27th and hit .327 with 32 runs batted in the rest of the season. 2023 also saw the late-season call-ups to Double-A of Williams and catcher Kevin Parada. Williams, the Mets Minor League Player of the Year, joined the Po- nies for the final six games of the regular season, along with the playoffs. The 20-year-old short- stop was selected by the Mets with the 14th overall pick in the 2022 draft out of Rockwall-Heath High School in Texas. He played at three different levels in 2023 (Single-A St. Lucie, High-A Brook- lyn, and Double-A Binghamton), racking up 108 hits and finishing with the second-most walks (104) in all of Minor League Baseball. Parada, the Mets’ 11th overall pick in the ’22 draft out of Geor- gia Tech, played 14 games to finish out the season with Bing- hamton, hitting three home runs with 11 RBIs. Infielder Jeremiah Jackson also added power and consistency to the Ponies’ lineup. Acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline for RHP Dominic Leone and cash considerations, Jackson reached base in 28 of his first 29 games with the club and had a stretch of hitting safely in 17-of-19 games. Jackson belted seven home runs and drove in 24 runs over 37 games with Binghamton. Arms race The Rumble Ponies’ dominant pitching staff was led by Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year Christian Scott. In 12 starts with the Rumble Ponies, Scott pitched to a 2.47 ERA in 62 in- nings, with a strikeout-to-walk ra-

tio of 77-to-8. Scott finished with the best WHIP (0.86) and K/BB ratio (8.92), among 640+ Minor League pitchers with at least 70.0 innings pitched in 2023. He was selected by the Mets in the fifth round of the 2021 draft out of the University of Florida. Along with Scott and Hamel, 2023 saw the Double-A debuts of right-handed pitchers Tyler Stu- art and Blade Tidwell. Stuart was called up to Bingham- ton after posting a MiLB-lead- ing 1.55 ERA in 14 starts with High-A Brooklyn. Over his first four starts at the Double-A level, Stuart went at least five innings and allowed three runs or less. In 24 games between the two levels, Stuart finished 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA. Possessing an impos- ing 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame, the 24-year-old was selected by the Mets in the sixth round of the 2022 draft, out of Southern Mississippi. Tidwell, the Mets’ second-round pick out of Tennessee in 2022, showed glimpses of what made him such a prolific pitcher in Knoxville. On September 9 on the road against Somerset, he allowed just two runs over seven and two-thirds innings with no walks and seven strikeouts. On September 12 against Reading, he allowed just three hits over five scoreless frames with no walks and nine punchouts. One of the unexpected stars of the Ponies’ playoff surge was Joander Suarez. Suarez threw the eighth-no-hitter in franchise history in the first game of a doubleheader on September 7 against the Hartford Yard Goats at Dunkin’ Park. The 23-year-old allowed just one base runner, via a leadoff walk in the first inning, and faced the minimum over seven no-hit innings with four strikeouts. Suarez became just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to

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