Hurricane Florence Will Likely Scuttle Minor League Playoffs

Image credit: (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

For the second time in as many years, the minor league playoffs will be affected by an incoming hurricane. Last season, Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation or rearrangement of several postseason series. 

  • The Carolina League Championship was cancelled, with Lynchburg and Down East being named co-champions.
  • The Florida State League Championship was cancelled, with Dunedin and Palm Beach being named co-champions.
  • The Southern League Championship was cancelled, with Chattanooga and Pensacola being named co-champions.

This year, a repeat of that scenario appears likely. Hurricane Florence is headed toward the Mid-Atlantic region, where two playoff series are ready to get underway. The International League, which pits Durham against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Carolina League, which is down to Buies Creek and Potomac, are most likely to be affected.

The IL Championship Series gets going on Tuesday in Scranton, where the first two games of the series are slated to be played. There is normal rain in the forecast for the area on Wednesday, but the teams should be safe from Florence’s path. The series is scheduled to shift back to Durham on Thursday, which is precisely when the hurricane is predicted to make landfall.

According to the Web site Weather Underground, Durham could be wet from Thursday through Sunday, with an estimated 3.1 inches rain during that span. In other words, not exactly baseball weather regardless of the amount of wind that accompanies the rain.

Because Triple-A baseball is involved, the scenario becomes extra tricky. Because the champions of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues meet in a one-game National Championship (scheduled to be played next Tuesday in Columbus) there urgently needs to be a winner from the IL. 

The scenario that seems to make the most sense would be flipping the entire series of Scranton, where, even if there is normal rain, everyone would be safe from the storm. It’s not unprecedented, either. Currently, the Northwest League Championship Series is being played exclusively at Eugene because the other contender, Spokane, has a schedule conflict with its stadium. 

All three games of the Southern League’s Southern Division Series last year were played at Pensacola because Jacksonville’s stadium was in Irma’s path. Before it was cancelled, there were also talks of playing some of the championship series games at Biloxi, which was out of the way. 

For now, the series is on as scheduled. Two sources on Monday indicated that no changes were going to be made in the immediate future, especially with the storm not expected to hit land until Thursday.

As dicey as things sound for the IL, the Carolina League’s predicament is even trickier. Because the finals are are between Buies Creek (which plays its home games on the campus of Campbell University in North Carolina) and Potomac (located in Woodbridge, Va.), both teams’ stadiums are in the storm’s path, so flipping the series from one site to the other isn’t a viable solution.

The series is scheduled to get going on Tuesday at Buies Creek, when the weather will be fine. The one change so far is to Game 2’s start time. Initially slated for 6:00 p.m., the team has now moved the start time up to 1:00 p.m., which should give the teams plenty of time to get on the road to Virginia. 

Once the teams get there, however, they could be waiting a while. The forecast starting Thursday in Woodbridge is very, very wet. Rain is in the forecast until Monday, and Woodbridge could also be affected by the hurricane. Though the precedent was set last season, it seems unlikely, with Game 1 in just more than 24 hours, that the series would be cancelled outright.

Both series are on as scheduled. Now all they can do is wait to see what happens next. 

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