Lancaster Barnstormers vs. Wild Health Genomes - Atlantci League baseball

Lancaster Barnstormers Shawon Dunston Jr. (11) high fives teammate Melvin Mercedes (3) after they both scored agaiat the Wild Health during fourth inning action of an Atlantic League baseball game at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster Friday July 8, 2022.

At some point around the middle of this baseball season, the Barnstormers found something their manager isn’t embarrassed to call love.

“The way your clubhouse is affects how you play,’’ Ross Peeples said in his clubhouse office Thursday, before his club beat York 8-2 before 4,328 at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

“We preached it for two months, and then we started to see a couple guys believing, and then a couple more. Next thing you know, man, we’re pulling for each other.

“We started playing for each other, helping each other, and literally, we started loving each other. It’s just amazing.’’

The Barnstormers have won two-thirds of their games for two-and-a-half months, culminating in a 10-4 defeat of York Tuesday, to lock up the Atlantic League’s second-half North Division title.

After a hangover-ish 9-0 loss to the Revolution Wednesday, they got back on the horse Thursday. The Barnstormers scored four in the first inning and cruised behind very solid pitching of Nile Ball, who got his 11th win, and Chase Johnson, who tossed three scoreless relief innings.

Lancaster hit three home runs, including a three-run, first-inning bomb by Anderson Feliz.

The AL playoffs begin Tuesday (Sept. 20) here, Lancaster hosting Southern Maryland in game one of a best-of-five semifinal series.

The Clip hosts games one and two, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the final three, if necessary, to be played at Southern Maryland Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Blue Crabs rolled to the North first-half crown with a 48-18 mark. Their trademark pitching has been up to the tradition, with a 3.92 team earned-run average. The Crabs have issued at least 81 walks fewer than any other AL club.

Peeples expected his bullpen to be strong in April, and it been. The emergence of starters Ball, Oscar De La Cruz, Brooks Hall and Cameron Gann has been huge.

“They haven’t surprised me, but they have stepped up, 100 percent,’’ Peeples said. “De La Cruz is a prime example. His last five to seven starts have been very good.

“You can see it with him. He’s one of the ones that started believing in himself, started believing in his teammnates. He started to pitch with some emotion, and he’s been lights-out.’’

The Barnstormers’ offensive numbers are just a hair better than Southern Maryland, second in the AL with 731 runs, although the homer-friendly Clip could be a factor there.

The Barnstormers’ Andretty Cordero has arguably been the AL’s best player this summer, a multi-position guy who went into Thursday second on the league in batting average (.336) and RBI (a club-record 114).

Clinching a week before the finish line has given Peeples the chance to rest his guys and set up his pitching for the postseason; Southern Maryland, of course, has essentially had three months to do that.

It has also given Peeples a chance to work an important piece, outfielder/leadoff man Shawon Dunston, Jr., back into form after missing six weeks with a hip injury.

Dunston returned to the lineup Tuesday, as a designated hitter, and went 4-for-4 with a home run. He had two hits Thursday, including a homer to lead off the Barnstormers’ half of the first inning Thursday.

Dunston will play in the outfield Saturday for the first time since the injury, Peeples said.

The other side of it is that No. 1 catcher Colton Shaver was placed on the seven-day disabled list Wednesday with a broken hand.

The AL championship series is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Sept. 27, with the same best-of-five, 3-2 format, the first two games at the Southern Division champion.

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