The River Bandits’ season was a tale of two teams, and both of them were good. The team that started the season was stacked with a number of very good (if not top) prospects who played very well. The Bandits amassed the best record in affiliated baseball in the first half, going 45-23. Jacob Nottingham led the offense with a .326 average, .387 OBP and .543 slugging % with 10 home runs. He played 59 games before being called up. He was eventually was traded with another River Bandit who had already moved up – Daniel Mengden – to the A’s for Scott Kazmir. Mengden had a 1.16 ERA and a .983 WHIP as a Bandit. Derek Fisher was another bright spot. Fisher had an .896 OPS in 39 games before moving up. In his first game at high A Lancaster, Fisher hit two grand slams, a solo HR and a double. He had 12 RBIs, which broke a California League record set in 1954.
Other notable players from the first half:
- First round pick Alex Bregman put up a .699 OPS in 29 games before moving up.
- Mott Hyde played 50 games as a Bandit and had a .795 OPS before moving up.
- Jamie Ritchie also put up a .795 OPS in 72 games before moving up.
- 19 year old Frances Martes put up a 1.04 ERA in 52 innings, with 45K’s, 13 walks and a .885 WHIP.
- Sean McMullen had 21 extra base hits in 218 at bats before moving up.
The highlight of the first half of the season was a 20 game stretch from April 29 to May 19 where they went 18-2, and included a 12 game winning streak. I don’t think even our championship teams of recent years ever got quite this hot. During this stretch they outscored their opponents 131 to 66.
Perhaps the signature game on this torrid stretch was the one on May 18th versus the Beloit Snappers. The River Bandits won this game 8-0, and held the Snappers to just 2 hits. Daniel Mengden went 6 innings and allowed just the two hits. He was relieved by Keegan Yuhl who threw two shutout innings, and then Jose Montero closed the game out in the 9th. On offense, it was the Sean McMullen show. He went 3 for 4, with a double, triple and home run. He was a single short of the cycle. He also had 2 RBIs and 2 runs. Mott Hyde had a good game, going 2 for 4 with 2 RBI and 1 run.
In the second half of the season a big chunk of the roster had moved up, but something funny happened: they just kept winning. They went 43-27, which was good for the 2nd place, and 5 GB of Kane County in the 2nd half standings. This gave them a 88-50 record for the whole season, which was tops in the league, and the 2nd best in franchise history.
The most remarkable thing they did in the 2nd half was they put together a second 12 game winning streak. To have 2 twelve game winning streaks in the same season is absurd, especially doing it after losing so many players to call ups. This second 12 game streak happened from July 26 to August 8th. They outscored opponents 74 to 20 on this streak!
The signature game on this streak was win #12, which was a road game against the Dayton Dragons on August 8. The Bandits won this one 10-0, holding the Dragons to just 5 hits. Josh James put up this pitching line: 6IP, 7K, 2BB, 5H, 0R. Eric Peterson and Steve Naemark combined for the last 3 innings to preserve the shutout. On offense Nick Tanielu went 2 for 4 with a HR, 3 RBI and 1 run. Bobby Boyd went 2 for 3 with a walk, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored.
So how did the Bandits keep winning despite losing so many players to callups? Well, while the well-known players like Nottingham and Fisher were getting all the attention in the 1st half, this core group of players were quietly putting together a really solid season:
- Nick Tanielu played 109 games and hit .311 with 70 RBI and a .796 OPS.
- Bobby Boyd played 116 game and hit .282 with 65 runs.
- Jason Martin played 104 games and had a .748 OPS.
- Kristian Trompiz played solid defense in 112 games at SS and 2B and had 40 RBI and 48 runs.
- Joshua James had a 2.63 ERA in 116.1 innings.
- Brock Dykxhoorn put up a 3.88 ERA in 109 innings.
Then they also got these reinforcements to replace some of the callups:
- Bryan Muniz put up a .864 OPS in 44 games in the second half.
- Drew Ferguson played 43 games in the outfield and hit .292.
- Trent Woodward caught 26 games and hit .294.
- Dean Deetz had a 0.76 ERA in 35.1 innings, going 5-1.
- Agapito Barrios had a 1.65 ERA over 27.1 innings.
Astros fans should be excited to see what a lot of these players do as they move up through the different levels of minor league baseball. The Astros have put together a remarkably deep minor league system. Next up is the playoffs where the River Bandits will be facing off against the Cedar Rapids Kernels.