The Tri-City ValleyCats open up defense of their 2013 New York-Penn League championship tonight when they travel to Connecticut to face the Connecticut Tigers.

The Tri-City ValleyCats celebrate clinching the Stedler Division outright in 2014 (Gregory J. Fisher/Tri-City ValleyCats).

The ValleyCats, who finished the year at 48-28, earned the league’s top overall seed. In the best-of-three series, the ‘Cats will be on the road for Game 1 before playing Game 2 and a potential Game 3 at home.

The two Stedler Division foes are very familiar with one another, having seen each other 10 times this season. However, the two have not played each other since the end of July.

For the ValleyCats, this season’s success can be greatly attributed to the managerial job of Ed Romero. Romero has had to deal with the paradox known by minor league teams: Play well and develop your players. However, once those players are developed, they leave for the next level.

The ValleyCats have seen their four most productive hitters: A.J. Reed (2014 2nd-round pick), J.D. Davis (2014 3rd-round pick), Ryan Bottger, and Bobby Boyd all earn promotions. Furthermore, opening day outfielder Marc Wik also earned a call-up. And then there was the New York-Penn League’s best starter in Troy Scribner, opening day rotation member Blaine Sims, and relievers Jordan Mills and Raul Rivera.

In losing Reed, Davis, and Bottger, the ‘Cats transformed a predominately left-handed lineup to nearly all righties. They’ve transitioned from a team that can drive the ball out of the park to a team that can situationally hit, and they haven’t missed much of a beat.

After dropping seven of eight at one point in August, Tri-City rebounded to win its last five games, including a sweep of the Brooklyn Cyclones and three of the league’s top pitchers.

Derek Fisher earned an NYPL spot this season (Gregory J. Fisher/Tri-City ValleyCats).

If Tri-City is going to win its second straight title (and third in five years), they are going to need to get contributions at the top of the order from 18-year-old Jason Martin, a speedster from the left side, as well as New York-Penn League all-stars Derek Fisher and Nick Tanielu.

On the mound, Tri-City will send ace Joe Musgrove to the mound in Game 1. Musgrove, the former supplemental first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, is 7-1 this season with a 2.81 ERA.