QUINCY -- A playoff berth was secured with over a month remaining in the regular season, so Quincy Gems manager Zack Getsee wanted to keep the mood light.
That didn't translate to a successful second half to the Prospect League season.
It did, however, let the Gems play loose and relaxed.
"Going through that month when we struggled, you want to go out and win every day," Getsee said. "Guys got frustrated, but at the same time, we were already in the playoffs, and all we had to do was execute when we got there. So we didn't need to put pressure on ourselves."
The Gems didn't feel any pressure while sweeping the Springfield Sliders in the West Division Playoff Series. The Gems now are two victories away from their fourth Prospect League championship since the league began in 2009.
Quincy and the East Division champion West Virginia Miners will face off for the league crown for the third time in league history when they open a best-of-3 series at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley, W.Va. The series moves to Quincy for Game 2 at 6:35 p.m. Saturday at QU Stadium. Game 3, if necessary, will be at 6:35 p.m. Sunday at QU Stadium.
The Miners won the championship the last time these teams met with a 2-0 sweep over the Gems in 2013. That finished off back-to-back title seasons for West Virginia. The Miners were swept in last season's championship series by the Terre Haute Rex.
The Gems, 29-33 overall, can make history by becoming the first team with a sub-.500 record to win the championship in league history.
"We knew we were in the playoffs," Gems outfielder Frankie Perrone said. "So yeah, (the second half) was really laid back. Obviously you want to try and win, but win or lose, we went home with positive attitudes."
After each game in the second half, even while the Gems slumped to an 1-11 mark, Getsee continued to remind the players they were still playing in the postseason. The Gems had a three-game losing streak to end the regular season, and two of those losses came against the Sliders on the final two days of the season. Quincy was 0-5 against Springfield at Robin Roberts Field.
Yet the Gems defeated Springfield 9-4 on the road in the opener, and they won 5-1 at home to advance to the title series.
"Getting that first win was very important to our team," Perrone said. "Once we got that, it gave us a taste and we realized we can win this whole thing. Everyone's bought into pulling together and winning a championship."
Both the Gems and the Miners, who had the best record in the East Division at 34-25, reached the championship series because of strong pitching performances.
Gems right-hander Cam Sanders threw six innings and allowed three runs on three hits with six strikeouts in Game 1. Right-hander Jake Haberer followed by allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings, and he struck out eight in the series-clinching victory.
West Virginia trotted out its two aces in its sweep of the Kokomo Jackrabbits in the East Division series. Michael Syrett threw a complete game in the opener, allowing one run on four hits in a 3-1 victory. Jacob Belinda, who started All-Star Game for the East Division, went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits in the 10-2 victory to seal the title.
A sweep allowed Getsee to rest Sanders and Haberer for an extra day. Sanders will likely go in Game 2, and Haberer will get the ball in Game 3 if needed.
"It's nice to be able to relax and get a day off," Sanders said. "We'll be fired up and ready to go."
The Gems will be shorthanded for the championship series. Designated hitter Joey Polak, who hit a team-high .298 in the regular season and had three hits in the division series, will be unavailable because he is leaving Friday to start the fall semester at the University of South Carolina. That leaves Quincy with just one bench player.
However, the remaining players in the Gems lineup have proven to be more than capable. Quincy led the league with 47 homers and 112 doubles and was led by outfielder Mitch Carriger, who led the league with 11 homers. The Miners pitching staff had a 3.94 earned run average this season.
Prospect League Championship Series
Game 1 -- Quincy at West Virginia, 7:05 p.m., Thursday
Game 2 -- West Virginia at Quincy, 6:35 p.m. Saturday
Game 3 (if necessary) -- West Virginia at Quincy, 6:35 p.m. Sunday