The Bandits were unable to cap their great regular season with a deep playoff run, losing to the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League playoffs 2 games to 0.
They lost game 1 by a score of 5-2 and game 2 in a heartbreaker 3-1 in 11 innings. Errors ultimately doomed the Bandits in both games. Of the Kernels’ 8 runs scored in the series, 4 were unearned. Give the Kernels credit for pitching extremely well and not making errors themselves though.
In game 1, the Kernels took a 2-0 lead in the 3rd inning when a throwing error advanced two runners into scoring position, and they capitalized with a hit. The Bandits tied the game 2-2 in the top of the 4th on three singles, mixed in with a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly. The Kernels re-took the lead in the bottom of the 4th on an infield single and a double. They added 2 more runs later on a wild pitch in the 6th and an error in the 7th.
Game 2 was a very tight game ultimately decided by executing bunts, on both offense and defense. Sam Gibbons and Brock Dykxhoorn matched zeroes for the first three innings. The Kernels’ Edgar Corcino reached on an error in the top of the 4th, was advanced with a bunt and ultimately came around to score on a fielder’s choice. The Bandits answered in the bottom of the 4th with a triple by Jason Martin and a single by Nick Tanielu.
The bottom of the 5th inning was eventful. Garrett Stubbs led off with a double. Kristian Trompiz tried laying down a bunt to get him to third. During the at bat Trompiz appeared to be hit in the head by a pitch. He laid on the ground for a while and the trainer came out. He did get up finally. In the meantime, the umpire ruled the pitch was a bunt attempt instead of a HBP. Bandits’ manager Josh Bonifay argued the call for several minutes. When play resumed, Trompiz continued the at bat and struck out. Bobby Boyd then hit a single but Garrett Stubbs was thrown out at home plate.
The game would stay 1-1 until the 11th inning, but there were several key plays on both sides to get there. In the top of the 9th inning, TJ White hit a ball that Drew Ferguson caught with his back against the left field wall. In the top of the 10th, the Kernels got an infield single and bloop single with 2 outs. Angel Heredia got a strikeout to end the threat. In the bottom of the 10th, Ferguson led off with a single for the Bandits. Ramon Laureano then lined a bunt attempt to the pitcher who caught the ball and doubled Ferguson off of first base. In the top of the 11th, TJ White drew a walk. Then LaMonte Wade laid down a good bunt. Bandits’ catcher Garrett Stubbs tried getting the force at second base. Instead he made a bad throw, and both runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Chris Paul then got a single to drive them in.
It was unfortunate ending to an otherwise great season for the Bandits. Here is my two cents about the Midwest League playoff format: starting the higher seed on the road for game 1 of a best 2 of 3 series is tough. The lower seed just needs to win their home game to put the higher seed on the brink of elimination. This year, 3 of the 4 lower seeded teams won game 1 at home, and all 3 advanced by winning game 2 on the road. I think it might be time to expand these early playoff series to best 3 of 5, and give the higher seeds the first two games at home. The minors are a big business now. Over 4.2 million fans attended games in the Midwest League this year. The playoffs are becoming more important as the league grows. It may be time to expand the playoffs a bit.