1. Merchants (3-1, – GB); Tiebreaker: 1-0 vs. Ground Sloths
Description: The Merchants have found a way to win in almost every game in their first week of play with three come-from-behind wins. Their offense is undoubtedly the best in the league, having two players in the top 5 in OPS, RBIs, and SLG.; along with three of the top 5 in Batting Average. They still deserve to be at the top of this league, for now, however, their pitching corps will be the thorn in their side. Having two of the best pitchers in the league with Nate Garard and Wes Hunt being their most prolific pitchers, they will need some help in the bullpen if they want to maintain at the top of the league. Garard pitched a gem against the Bobcats totaling 4 IP, 5 SO, and 3 H earning the win, while Hunt pitched 3.2 IP in relief in Sunday’s win with 3 K and a .727 strike percentage. If the first week is any indication, the Merchants should continue to see themselves near the top of the league.
Moment of the Week: Jack Shields, Walk-Off Double, Saturday, May 28 Game 1
Their moment of the week is going to Jack Shields, who had a wonderful walk-off two-run single on a 1-1 count after the Ground Sloths scored three in the top of the 7th on a towering drive over the left-field wall. The pitching didn’t disappoint in that game either, where Lutz got the start and went 4 innings, allowing 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, and walking none. McAfee came in relief and threw two shutout innings, with Martinez getting the win off one inning pitched and allowing the three-run home run in the top of the 7th.
Player to Watch: Travis Lutz, RHP (ICC Freshman and Bradley Commit)
On Saturday (5/28), Lutz took the mound against the Ground Sloths. After pitching four scoreless innings, he moved to right field and stayed in the game. On the season he has that pitching appearance, as well as 2 extra-base hits in six at-bats. Since he is so versatile, Lutz is clearly one of the many players on the Merchants to watch this week.
2. Ground Sloths (3-1, – GB); Tiebreaker: 0-1 vs. Merchants
Description: The Sloths are second in the rankings due to the Merchants having the tiebreaker, however, they could be listed as 1a and 1b. Where the Merchants have some of the best batters, the Sloths fill the rest of the top 5. Latham had an all-star caliber week, batting .583, OPS 1.438, and leading the league in QAB and Slugging. This performance instigated his movement to the Quincy Gems, thus leaving the Sloths to find someone to take his place as the most consistent hitter on their roster. They also have the best pitching corps; going behind Smith who threw a masterclass: 3 IP, 1 BB, 7 SO, and earned his save. Keegan Gagliardo also had an almost perfect appearance, starting the game and going 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, and 9 SO.
Moment of the Week: Peyton Dillingham, HR Derby Game-Winner, Thursday, May 26 Game 2
Their performance of the week comes from the opening day home run derby win behind the bat of Peyton Dillingham. For the KCL, extra innings are a thing of the past; instead, a player is selected from each team to compete in a home run derby. Dillingham got the call, and came through for his team, boosting them to a win over the BlueCaps.
Player to Watch: Dom DiLello, OF (IWU Senior)
DiLello posted an absolutely ridiculous OPS of 1.167 during his first week of action. He’s tied for second in the KCL in RBIs with four, only behind teammate Davey Fitzpatrick. With another Ground Sloths player, Jon Latham, being sent to the Quincy Gems in the prospect league, expect the temp to step into the middle of the order for now and continue to mash the ball.
3. Bobcats (1-3, 2 GB); Tiebreaker: 1-0 vs. BlueCaps
Description: Week one was tough on the Bobcats. Picking up only one win in four tries. They picked up that win on Saturday with a dominant pitching performance by Will Jackson. Offensively, the Bobcats’ team triple slash is .175/.287/.258, and this needs to improve to have any team success this season. The pitching staff has a team era of 4.15 and a WHIP of 1.7, which are both second lowest, just ahead of the BlueCaps despite the complete game shutout. The team FIP of 3.29 means the pitching results should be better in future games. The Bobcats should be gaining players this week; Shai Robinson, in particular, should help jump-start the sleeping Bobcats lineup. The week’s moment is Will Jackson’s complete-game one-hitter against the BlueCaps. This week’s schedule for the Bobcats (6/1 @ Ground Sloths, 6/2 @ BlueCaps, 6/3 vs.Merchants, @ 6/5 Ground Sloths).
Moment of the Week: Will Jackson, 1 Hit Shutout, Saturday, May 28 Game 2
The RHP threw an 82-pitch one-hit complete game in the nightcap of Saturday’s KCL doubleheader against the BlueCaps. He is currently first in the league in ERA (0) and IP (7), second in WHIP (0.43), and third in K (6). After surrendering a lead-off single in the third, he went on to retire 15 consecutive batters to end the game, earning him the only complete game of the season and spotlight pitcher of the week honors (see below).
Player to Watch: Jackson Blemler, INF (Parkland Sophomore)
Blemler quietly shined last week for the Bobcats. Among qualified hitters (10 plate appearances), he leads his team in batting average, hits, OPS, and tied in stolen bases. He also has not made an error in the field yet with 15 total chances, thus tying the league lead in fielding percentage. Expect him to draw more attention as the Bobcats look to have a better wee
4. BlueCaps (1-3, 2 GB); Tiebreaker: 0-1 vs. Bobcats
Description: Although ranked second in the preseason power rankings, the BlueCaps find themselves in last place following the opening weekend of KCL play. Expected to rely on their pitching this season, the BlueCaps are last in the league in ERA (4.41), ER (17), WHIP (1.852), and FIP (4.196). Despite this, some individual players still find themselves among the league-best including Sunday’s starter Griffin McCluskey (4.0 IP, 0ER, 6K) and the league’s preseason save leader with 5 Aaron Agee (2.0 IP, 1-0, 0 ER, 2K) who was just promoted from a temporary player to a full-time BlueCap. Meanwhile, on the hitting side, they are middle-of-the-road in terms of most aggregate stats but are the only team in the league to have more than one home run with both Pat Mulcahey and Ty Coartney (3/6, 2B, BB, team-leading 4 RBI) going yard Thursday and Sunday respectively. Hitting team leaders include Mike Maloney leading the team in 2B (2) and qualified SLG (.385), Mitch Murphy leading them in qualified average (.300), and Joey Hagen leading in BB (4), qualified OBP (.500), qualified OPS (.750), and SB (2). Despite their rough start, it is still very early on in the season and there were many bright spots from the weekend, signifying the BlueCaps should continue to be a formidable team this season.
Moment of the Week: Mike Maloney, Walk-off Double, Friday, May 27 Game 1
The sole victory this weekend for the BlueCaps was also the only loss for the league-leading Merchants. Down 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, Trevor Davis started off the inning with a pinch-hit hit by pitch followed by a walk by Hunter Brewer and a single by Joey Hagen to load the bases. Then with one out on an 0-1 count, Mike Maloney, who was 0-2 with a BB entering the plate appearance, doubled on a line drive to the centerfielder, scoring both Davis and Brewer to walk it off for the BlueCaps, 4-3.
Player to Watch: Aaron Agee, RHP (Millikin Junior)
Agee was electric out of the bullpen in his first appearance of the season. He faced eight batters in the two innings he pitched and struck out two along the way. Something worth noting about Agee is that he pounds the strike zone, as 70% of his 33 pitches this year have been strikes. Despite putting the ball in the zone so much, he has only allowed two hits so far. Plus, you can potentially see him multiple times a week due to the fact that he comes out of the bullpen.
Spotlight Pitcher: Will Jackson, RHP (St. Thomas R-Junior) – Bobcats
The right-handed pitcher from Bloomington only made three appearances this spring at the University of Saint Thomas. Starting the season 0-2, the Bobcats needed a spark from Jackson. They got more than just a spark, as he led the Bobcats to their first win with a complete-game one-hitter on Saturday. Jackson went seven innings, allowed one hit and two walks (all came before the 4th inning), and struck out 6 BlueCaps en route to the victory. The two most impressive stats from Jackson’s outing were that he retired the last 15 batters he faced as well, as it only took 82 pitches (11.7 per inning) and threw 54 strikes (66% strikes). Jackson’s efficient pitching allowed him to go all seven innings and keep the bullpen available for Sunday. This efficient pitching was due to throwing first-pitch strikes, 60% of the hitters started 0-1, and each hitter that started 0-1 did not reach base. Jackson also induced many weak ground balls, which led to easy plays for his defense, which didn’t commit an error. Another vital aspect of Jackson’s success on Saturday was getting the lead-off hitters out; 6 of the 7 lead-off hitters Jackson faced were retired. This allowed Jackson to have more stress-free pitches and stay in a groove. Will Jackson should continue to have success if he continues to attack the strike zone early in at-bats and get weak contact.
Co-Spotlight Hitter: Davey Fitzpatrick, 1B/3B (Lewis Sophomore) – Ground Sloths
Fitzpatrick had a very productive week at the plate, driving in a league-leading 8 runs for the Ground Sloths as they opened up the season with 3 wins in their first 4 games. Fitzpatrick combined with his teammate Jon Latham to form the most potent corner-infield duo in the KCL. Among the league leaders in many offensive categories, Fitzpatrick punished opposing pitchers’ mistakes, mashing the ball all over the field to the tune of a .562 SLG. He showed up as a clutch factor for the Ground Sloths too, capitalizing in situations with runners on base, including a crucial 3-run home run in the 7th inning to put the Sloths ahead by 1 against the Merchants on Saturday. While they would go on to lose that game, Fitzpatrick showed out with one of his biggest performances when his team needed it the most. Look for Davey to continue his hot streak and make more splash plays as the Ground Sloths try to maintain their winning ways for the rest of this KCL season.
Co-Spotlight Hitter: Jon Latham, IF (Lewis Sophomore) – Ground Sloths
The Ground Sloths corner-infielder was an on-base machine in his first week of KCL action as he logged 7 hits in his first 12 at-bats to go along with 4 walks for an impressive .688 OBP. Latham led the league in most major offensive categories, including Quality ABs (11), OPS (1.438), AVG (.583), and SLG (.750). He proved to be a tough out every time he stepped to the plate this past week as he prioritized putting the ball in play, striking out only twice in his first four games. Latham was an excellent table-setter for the Sloths’ offense in their opening week, constantly getting on base and coming around to score. His offensive breakout helped lead the Ground Sloths to a 3-1 start to the season and put them in a tie with the Merchants for first place. His efforts on the field have already earned him a call-up to the Quincy Gems in the Prospect League, leaving a gaping hole in the Ground Sloths’ lineup moving forward.
Incoming Players to Watch
#24 Jack Bach, RHP (CMU Commit) – Bobcats
The Bobcats keep the young talent coming in with Jack Bach expected to join the team within the next week. In one of his most recent games, Bach had a phenomenal outing on the mound, but he didn’t stop there. He proceeded to hit the walk-off home run in the same game, giving his team the win.
#12 Jake Swartz, RHP (Illinois Commit) – BlueCaps
The BlueCaps manage to bolster their already loaded pitching staff with the addition of Swartz. Jake’s high school season ended with a heartbreaking loss where he went eight innings, thirteen strikeouts, and one earned run.
Shai Robinson, SS (ISU Commit) – Bobcats
The Bobcats will be getting some help up the middle this week with Shai Robinson coming in this week. Robinson is listed as a Shortstop and in his most recent game, he hit a 2-run home run.
Last Week’s Game of the Week: Merchants 4 BlueCaps 3, Saturday, May 28 Game 1
Last week’s game of the week did not disappoint. The BlueCaps beat the Merchants 4-3 on a walk-off double by Mike Maloney(SWIC) in the bottom of the seventh. The BlueCaps got out to an early lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Dom Ferrari (SWIC). The Merchants would take a 3-1 lead in the third inning with a sac fly from Zach Otten (ICC) and a two-run single by Chris LeCrone (Milwaukee Tech). The BlueCaps got one back in the fourth inning courtesy of a two-out two-strike double by Hunter Brewer (SWIC). Mike Maloney then walked it off in the bottom of the seventh with a line-drive double to left, scoring Trevor Davis (EIU) and the winning run in Hunter Brewer. Cade Sharp (Monmouth College) turned in a good start for the Merchants giving up 2ER on 4H in 4.0 innings while striking out three and walking 6. However, the six walks came back to bite Sharp as they aided the BlueCaps’ scoring efforts in the first and fourth inning. Jesse Hake (ICC) came in relief of Sharp and went six up, and six down before surrendering the winning runs in the seventh inning. Hake’s final line was 2.1 innings 2ER 2H 1BB 1SO. Braden Roesch (UIS) started on the hill for the BlueCaps; Roesch also struggled with walks giving up 5 of his own. Roesch also gave up three hits, giving three runs in 3.0 innings while striking out three 3. The BlueCaps relievers shut down the Merchants; Caleb Jacobs (Mt.Olive) relieved Roesch and threw two perfect innings while striking out 4. Aaron Agee (Millikin) also added two run-free innings and struck out two. Offensively, Joey Hagen (EIU) (2H, 1BB) and Hunter Brewer (1H, 2BB) each reached base three times. Ferrari (1 RBI), Brewer (1 RBI), and Maloney (2 RBI) drove in the four runs for the ‘Caps. Five different players each had one hit for the Merchants, and the RBIs were driven in by LeCrone and Otten.
Next Week’s Game of the Week: Merchants vs. Ground Sloths, Thursday, June 2 Game 2
This week the projected game to watch involves the two teams tied at the top of the league standings at 3-1, the Merchants and the Ground Sloths. The Merchants currently hold the tiebreaker over the Ground Sloths via their thrilling 6-5 head-to-head victory in Saturday’s Game 1 when Jack Shields hit a walk-off single to negate Davey Fitzpatrick’s go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the frame. The projected starters for this matchup will be Cade Sharp for the Merchants (0-0, 3.50 ERA, 3K) and Nate Righi for the Ground Sloths (1-0, 5.25 ERA, 7K). After five games at the start of the twin bill, this will mark the Merchants first time playing in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
Just for Fun: Best Baseball Hat Poll
The Corn Crib’s summer interns are back at again with another poll. This time they were asked their favorite team logo of which 42% chose the Ground Sloths.
As always, stay tuned for next week’s update including the best walk-up songs, updated power rankings, scouting reports, and more.
- May 31
- Isaiah Immke (RHP) traded to Ground Sloths, completing Jayden Comia trade
- Cameron Glick (RHP) and Caleb Jacobs (RHP) sent to Normal Cornbelters
- Trey Krause (LHP) released
- Aaron Agee (RHP) moved from temporary roster to full-time roster
- Ground Sloths
- Isaiah Immke (RHP) moved from temporary roster to full-time roster
- Jon Latham (IF) sent to Quincy Gems
- May 28
- Jayden Comia (IF) traded from Ground Sloths to BlueCaps for PTBNL
- May 27
- BlueCaps sign Aaron Agee (RHP) to temporary contract