Nick Tanielu

Nick Tanielu hits a triple in the first inning of game 1

Kernels Eliminate Bandits 2 Games To 0 In MWL Playoffs

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.

Nick Tanielu hits a triple in the first inning of game 1

Nick Tanielu hit a triple in the 1st inning of game 1 (Photo credit: Rich Guill/Sean Flynn Photography/River Bandits)

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.

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Bobby Boyd

River Bandits Playoff Preview

The Bandits went 43-27 in the second half, and the Kernels went 36-34. Neither team comes in very hot, both finishing their last 10 games of the season 5-5. The River Bandits went 9-4 against the Kernels in the regular season, but the two teams have not played each other since July 20th. That was the last game of a 3 game series which the Bandits won 2 out of 3. The Kernels took the first game by a score of 3-2. The Bandits took the last two by scores of 5-1 and 14-5. A number of players from both teams have been called up since then, but there are several still with both teams.

River Bandits’ key hitters: Nick Tanielu has been the Bandits’ #3 hitter most of the season. In that 3 game series in July he went 4 for 12 with 5RBI. He’s been a solid, consistent presence in the lineup all year. He had been on the DL late in the season, but returned to play the final 3 games of the regular season. Hopefully he is healthy and ready for the playoffs. They will need him to produce. Bobby Boyd was 3 for 10 in that July series. He normally bats leadoff or #2 in the lineup. He’s a key table-setter for the Bandits. Jason Martin has also batted at the top of the lineup a lot here in the second half. He has a .346 OBP and 65 runs scored. Bryan Muniz has batted cleanup in the second half and has done really well putting up a .846 OPS with 48 RBI in 74 games. Muniz could be the difference in this series.

Kernels’ key hitters: The Kernels do not have a lot of power but they have several players with high OBP. T.J. White has been solid all year for the Kernels, with a .359 OBP. He has played in 106 games for the Kernels usually in the #3 slot. He was not in the lineup for that series in July. Edgar Corcino also bats in the middle of the lineup. He went 6 for 10 with 3 walks in that July series and has a .340 OBP. Second baseman Rafael Valera has an impressive .378 OBP. Center fielder Austin Deimer is hitting .280 but 13 of his 37 hits are for extra bases.

Game 1 pitching matchup: Joshua James (7-4, 2.63 ERA) for the Bandits versus Felix Jorge (6-7, 2.79 ERA) for the Kernels. Jorge has made 2 starts versus the Bandits’ this year, and pitched well both times. Each time he only allowed 1 earned run, going at least 6 innings. He got a no decision in both games, but the Kernels won both in the later innings. James has faced the Kernels three times. Back on April 30, James threw 4 shutout innings in relief to close out the game and earn a win. He only allowed 1 hit, and had 5K’s. He made 2 starts against the Kernels since then, going 5 innings both times, and allowing 2 and 3 runs in those starts. James got a no decision both times but the Bandits went on to win both.

Game 2 probable starters: Brock Dykxhoorn (8-5, 3.88 ERA) for the Bandits versus Sam Gibbons (7-4, 2.89 ERA) for the Kernels

Game 3 probable starters (if necessary): Dean Deetz (5-1, 0.76 ERA) for the Bandits versus Keaton Steele (7-4, 3.41 ERA) for the Kernels

Prediction: Game 1 is at Cedar Rapids and games 2 and 3 will be at Quad Cities. All the Kernels have to do is win their home game to put the Bandits’ back against the wall. I like the Bandits’ chances since they did so well during the season against the Kernels. As you can see the pitching is pretty even. The Bandits just have a bit more pop in their lineup than the Kernels. The Bandits are favorites to win this series.

Jacob Nottingham is greeted at home plate by Bobby Boyd and Derek Fisher after hitting a HR

River Bandits’ 2015 Season Recap

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.

Nick Tanielu was a steady presence in the lineup all season for the River Bandits

Nick Tanielu was a steady and solid presence in the lineup all season for the River Bandits

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.