The 2017 season drew fans and even a playoff berth in Geneva, setting the stage for what could be an exciting 2018 season

In 2016, the Geneva Red Wings were very bad. During the first month of the 2017 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season, the Newark Pilots also were very bad.

Both of those trends changed by the end of the 2017 PGCBL season as the Geneva Red Wings ended up hosting their first playoff game since 2014 thanks to the team assembled by coach Dan Shwam, and the Pilots went on a last-month run that nearly got them into the playoffs as well. While the Red Wings lost in the first round and the Pilots came up short, the fact remains: things turned around.

Nowhere was that more clear than in the stands. In one of the final games of the season, Newark's Colburn Park was packed to the gills with baseball fans, union members, and curious locals.

Newark, however, has always had fairly good attendance. Geneva, on the other hand, had rarely seen a crowd as big as there was on the final Monday of the season. With good reason: not only were tickets free, but the game against the Elmira Pioneers would determine who would host the first round of the playoffs.

It was an instant classic, with the Red Wings coming back from five runs down to force extra innings, before they then finally won in the 10th inning, causing a frenzy from the hundreds of fans as Yohei Ishiyama crossed home plate on an Elmira error to win it.

So what if the Red Wings lost the next day to be eliminated? On that night, on that field, they might as well have been champions. A sharp turn from the struggling team and empty stands of 2016.

And so, the question now becomes: what is next? Of course, the very nature of the PGCBL means that most of the players who were in Newark and Geneva uniforms this year will not be next year, although Newark GM Leslie Ohmann said a few players have already expressed interest in another year.

Still, there are some things that are certain. Geneva will be getting a new scoreboard, while a team from Watertown is also expected to join the league.

And as for the players? What sort of players will be playing for local PGCBL teams next year? As you read this, that may already be being determined.

“We start recruiting as soon as this season's over,” says Ohmann. That includes some quality ballplayers from Newark High School. “We're looking to get them back here. That's real exciting for us.”

Indeed, between the possibility of hometown players in Newark and a resurgent franchise in Geneva, baseball fans are going to have plenty to be excited about.

NOTES: Geneva's Alex Bellardini (Youngstown State) and Newark's Henry Martinez (Cypress) were possibly the best pitchers among the local teams that qualified for end-of-year leader boards, with Bellardini third in wins and fifth in ERA and Martinez tied for third in strikeouts and third in ERA ... Amsterdam's John Valente (St. John's) finished the season with an incredible .422 batting average, the team leaders for Geneva and Newark were Joseph Tassin (.327) and Mark McKenna (.288) respectively ... Russ Olive (UMass Lowell), who played for Newark in 2016 but spent 2017 with Mohawk Valley, led the league in HRs (8) and RBIs (42) ... Mikey Arman and Jake Evans, both of Geneva, led local-area PGCBL in HRs with 4 ... The Jamestown Jammers and Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs are playing for the PGCBL title, a Mohawk Valley title will be its second in three years.