09/05/2006 7:40 AM - Gary, Ind.The Gary SouthShore RailCats notched their eight consecutive victory on Monday in a special one game tie-breaker, defeating the Joliet JackHammers 5-2 to win the Northern League Eastern Division Second Half title.
The RailCats had forced the tie-breaker by sweeping the Kansas City T-Bones in a four game weekend series to move into a tie with Joliet in the Eastern Division standings.
The RailCats will open the Eastern Division playoffs against First Half champion Schaumburg at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday in Schaumburg in the first game of a best-of-five series. Game two will be played Wednesday at 7:05 before the series moves to Gary on Friday for game three at 7:00 p.m. Games four and five will also be played in Gary if necessary. Game four will be played Saturday at 6:00 and game five on Sunday at 2:00.
RailCats starting pitcher Jason Shelley and three relievers combined to allow only five hits while Kevin White and Tanner Townsend each hit home runs for the RailCats, who allowed only 12 runs in nine games on their season-ending home stand.
Joliet took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jose Amado walked with two outs and scored on Rob Strattons double.
Townsend started off the bottom of the first for Gary with a single to left and Steve Haake followed with a triple to right center to drive in Townsend. Haake scored with one out on Whites ground out to make it 2-1.
The RailCats added another run on an unusual play in the second. Steve Booth walked with one out and went to second on Jay Peccis single. Eric McNamee followed with a ground ball to third that was fielded by Amado, who threw to second to get the force on Pecci. But second baseman Blake Gills throw to first was wide of the bag and got past Chad Ehrnsberger. In his haste to quickly pick up the ball, Ehrnsberger deflected the ball into the Joliet dugout, allowing Booth to score to make it 3-1.
Joliet pulled back to within one run in the fifth when Mikael Jova singled, went to third on Gills double, and scored on Greg Stevens sacrifice fly to make it 3-2.
But White drilled a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth for Gary to make it 4-2, and Townsend added a solo homer in the seventh to make it 5-2.
Travis Kerber replaced Shelley after six innings and worked two scoreless frames, allowing only one man to reach base.
Kris Regas started the ninth for Gary and recorded two outs sandwiched around an infield single. Then Pete Sikaras came on to record the final out on ground out to short by Jova.
The RailCats finished the second half with a 27-22 record, just one-half game worse than their 2005 second half mark of 27-21, when they went on to win the Northern League title. Their opponent in the first round of the playoffs, Schaumburg, qualified for the post-season by going 31-17 in the first half and winning the division. However, the Flyers went 15-33 in the second half and enter the playoffs having lost 19 of their last 22 games.
Ryan Miller (2-1, 2.21) will start for Gary on Tuesday in Schaumburg.
Tickets for RailCats home games can be purchased at the U. S. Steel Yard ticket office or by calling (219) 882-2255. They can also be purchased on-line at www.railcatsbaseball.com.