In the team's first October showing since 2000, the Rangers squared off against the Dayton Wolves for the league's championship at Gastineau Field on Saturday, Oct 7. It needed all 3 games, but the Rangers ultimately succumbed to the Wolves.
The Rangers fell behind early in game one as Dylan Snyder connected on a 2-run home run off of Brandon Saylor in the bottom of the first inning as the Wolves built a 3-0 advantage. But the Rangers answered immediately in the top of the second as Brandon Ward and Joe Becker singled with 2 outs, and both came around to score on Jaret Quinn's single to center. The Rangers made it a ballgame in the third when Mark Carpenter hit his first Rangers home run to tie the game at 3-3.
The Wolves took advantage of an error in the fourth to score two runs and take the lead back at 5-3. They put the game out of reach in the 6th as Todd Barhorst hit a 2-out, 2-run double, and Kyle Markle followed with a 2-run HR.
Carpenter's RBI double in the top of the 7th was last run of the ballgame for the Rangers as the team lost 9-4 in game one.
Things looked bleak to start game two as Jesse Jones walked the bases loaded, but Jones issued a pop fly, a strike out and a groundout to keep the Wolves off the board. Building off that, Jones singled with one out in the bottom of the first. Rob Pederson doubled, and Eric Becker added a run-scoring single as the Rangers led 1-0. Wolves pitcher Matt Pfeffer balked home a run to make it 2-0.
A Wolves' fielder's choice in the second cut into the lead 2-1. The Wolves would keep grinding their way back into the game in the fourth inning. A bases-loaded walk tied the game. A 2-run single by Todd Barhorst and a Snyder sac fly gave the Wolves a 5-2 lead.
The Rangers turned the ball over to Joe Becker on the mound in the fifth and recorded the first 1-2-3 inning of the finals.
Undeterred, the Rangers willed their way all the way back in the bottom of the fifth. Ward reached on an error. Quinn singled him home. After a Mike Seebock double, Kyle Moyer plated Quinn with an RBI single. Carpenter then came through with a 2-run single to give the Rangers back the lead at 6-5. Pederson added some insurance with an RBI single and the Rangers were now up 7-5. Nick Gilmore's sac fly in the sixth put the team up 8-5 and that's where the score ended as the Rangers forced a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday.
Just like the 2022 Championship finale, Eric Becker would toe the rubber in the championship game. However, Becker would not be able to make it out of the second after the 4 hits-batsman rule was implemented. Joe Becker relieved Eric and was able to limit the damage to a 3-0 deficit.
Markus Neff chipped in the first run for the Rangers as a single to right and a subsequent bobble allowed Jesse Jones to score from second.
But the Wolves let the wind out of the Rangers' sail in the fourth as the Wolves would score 5 times. The Wolves would score another 3 unearned runs off reliever Neff in the 7th to increase their lead to 11-1. The final run of the game came on RBI groundout from Quinn in the 9th.
Unfortunately, despite outhitting the Wolves 26-22 over the 3 game set, it was the pitching and defense that were uncharacteristically unRanger-like. After committing just 50 errors in 34 games prior to the championship series (1.5/game), the Rangers committed 10 errors in the 3-game series. The Rangers also lost the battle of free passes, as the Wolves worked 28 walks + HBPs in 3 games.
Offensive highlights: Mark Carpenter 4-for-11, 2R, 4RBI, double, HR, SB; Jesse Jones 2-for-9, 2R; Eric Becker 3-for-9, RBI; Rob Pederson 3-for-10, R, RBI, double; Cooper Nolte 4-or-8, 2R, double; Nick Gilmore 0-for-6, R, RBI; Brandon Ward 1-for-6, R; Joe Becker 2-for-3, R; Jaret Quinn 2-for-8, R, 4RBI; Mike Seebock 3-for-7, R, double; Markus Neff 1-for-5; Kyle Moyer 1-for-5, R, RBI, SB
Historical Notes: The Rangers are now 4-6 all-time in the league finals. The Game 2 victory was the 30th win of the season and the team finished 30-7-1.