The Rawhide won the first two games of the Northern Division playoffs against the San Jose Giants at home, Sunday night with one game left to clinch the Division.
If the Rawhide clinch the series, it will be on to the California League Finals for the second year in a row, starting Thursday, September 17.
There have been many contributions to the Rawhide’s success this year, and two of their biggest standouts have been starting pitcher Anthony Banda, and outfielder Daniel Palka. Banda and Palka have been with the Rawhide for the entire season and have served as consistent performers all season long, while hoping to do the same in the postseason.
Banda, who came to the Rawhide from the Milwaukee Brewers organization in July, 2014, is very grateful for the way that the Diamondbacks handle their minor league players, and the way they are prepared for success going forward.
“They put you in the best position to win,” he said. “They teach players to be respectful and it shows on the field with the success we had.”
Being that this was Banda’s first full season in the Diamondbacks’ organization, he was looking to make a good impression with his team. That he did, and he believes his success has just come from knowing the hitters he is facing.
“I learned to understand hitters; finding their holes and weaknesses; knowing the pitches to throw that they can’t hit,” he said. “I also started to learn how to get deep as possible into games and put the team in a position to win by pitching to contact.”
Banda also credits the work being done when not on the mound, saying that the discussions he has with coaches about hitters has paid dividends.
“We would have meetings to talk about hitters and go over each hitter’s tendencies,” he said. “And it was there that I learned I need to be consistent staying down in the strike zone.”
On the other side, Palka talked a little bit about what has worked so well for him and what he has done this season to help himself lead the Rawhide with 29 home runs.
“Just having a daily routine and doing early hitting, early fielding,” he said, “I would just stay on that same routine all season.”
With the California League being known as hitting friendly, Palka talked a little about whether or not that may have had an effect on his team this year.
“I think it had an effect on home runs,” he said. “But the base hits would’ve been hits anywhere. But, I mean, every league is different. I hit in the Midwest League last year and it’s friendly to hitters. In the end baseball is baseball.”
The Rawhide have had the best record in the California League for just about every day of the season, and Banda discussed when he saw the team click as a whole.
“Early on in spring when we didn’t know what level we were going, I just had a lot of fun with the guys,” he said. “Meeting new guys was great, and the chemistry was great during spring. We started clicking as team at the beginning. Everyone had each other backs. This team picks each other up. We lose as a team and we win as a team.
“Everybody is pulling for everybody on this team,” he said. “We all support each other. But we also get on each other too. People will talk to you if you do something wrong. We usually keep it as a team thing though and let the players handle it amongst ourselves.”
After winning the first half of the season in the CAL league, the Rawhide did not take their feet off the gas pedal, according to Banda.
Manager J.R. House would not let the team become complacent after achieving a goal in the first half, Banda said.
“In the second half we needed to continue to have each other’s backs, our manager wouldn’t let us be satisfied and we continued to find something to get better at,” he said. “That pushed us to winning the second half as well.”
Palka also talked about the team’s “state of mind” after winning the second half.
“We started off the second half bunched up with some other teams, but we just had to keep on playing,” he said. “You have goals you need to meet in a season.
“We always expected to be where we are right now. Maybe some scouts were surprised that we all put it together as a team. These guys have been together in previous seasons and we’ve really relied on each other, and it’s just all come together.”