1. Merchants (7-4, – GB); Week: 0-3, L3; Tiebreaker: 2-1 vs. Ground Sloths
Description: After a hot start, jumping out to 7-1 throughout the first few weeks of the season, they have hit a rough patch, going 0-3 with a blowout loss to the Ground Sloths, shootout loss to the Bobcats, and then a Home Run Derby loss against the BlueCaps. Over their first 8 games, they averaged 6.875 runs while allowing only 4.375 runs; however, backed behind some poor performances on the mound, they averaged 3.67 runs and allowed an average of 8 runs per game. It would be easy to blame the pitching for this skid; however, after calculating their SIERA (skill-interactive earned run average) which tries to eliminate all aspects that a pitcher cannot control, it ended up being a 5.89. Comparing it to a graph made by FanGraphs, anything above a 5 is considered awful.
For game one, Wes Hunt got the start on the bump and lasted 4 innings, allowed 7 hits and 7 runs, only striking out 3 and allowing 4 free passes. Markunas tried to come in and stop the bleeding, however, he was also hit around, giving up 4 hits in two innings, 3 runs, and 3 walks. However, there was a shining star with Jack Shields, who had 3 ABs, with 2 H, and reached on an error. Game two saw Fletcher get the start going 2 IP with 2H, 1 R, and 3 SO. Following him was Brodine who lasted only 1.2 IP, allowing 2 H, 3 R, and 1 SO, but he did have trouble finding the zone, dishing out 5 walks. Bredeson came after and went 2.1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 2 SO, and 4 BB, which will definitely be an appearance to forget. Lastly was their lights-out reliever Evan McAfee, who went 1 IP, 0 H, and 1 SO. Travis Lutz had himself a game at the plate, 3/3 with 2 triples, 1 single, 1 RBI, and 1 R. Game 3 was all Cade Sharp: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 SO, and 3 BB. Garard came to close it out and went 2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, and 4 SO. Anthony Martinez came into pinch hit and knocked a double which scored two.
Lights-out Reliever: #26 Evan McAfee, LHP (Ripon College Sophomore) – 4 GP, 5.1 IP, 8 K, 3 BB, 3 H, 3.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
In his sole appearance this week, McAfee went 1 inning, 1 strikeout, and threw 100% of his first pitches for strikes, and 75% strike percentage on only 12 pitches in a solid 1-2-3 inning. While the bats didn’t get hot for his appearance, he definitely shut the Bobcats down. Going to some of his previous appearances, he has been the go-to guy in the pen for the Merchants. In 3 appearances and 3.1 innings, he has allowed one hit, one run, and 5 SO with 2 HBP. McAfee has been showing some bullpen ace behavior, but for the Merchants to regain their confidence and swagger, they need someone to step up and be able to set the table for McAfee to come in and shut the game down.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Karter Hostetler||Demetrius Schupp||Logan Van Heuklon|
|1B||Anthony Martinez||Ben Nofsinger||Evan McAfee||Logan Van Heuklon|
|2B||Camden Porter||Beau Durbin||Chris LeCrone|
|3B||Chris LeCrone||Jack Keuthe||Anthony Martinez||Logan Van Heuklon|
|SS||Derek Botaletto||Camden Porter||Beau Durbin|
|LF||Jack Shields||Kaiden Rixner||Anthony Martinez||Nathan Garard|
|CF||Zach Otten||Jack Shields||Jack Keuthe||Nathan Garard|
|RF||Jack Keuthe||Travis Lutz||Kaiden Rixner||Zach Otten|
|DH||Logan Van Heuklon||Karter Hostetler||Travis Lutz||Nathan Garard|
|SP||Nathan Garard||Cade Sharp||Wes Hunt||Addison Fletcher||Parker Brodine|
|RP||Evan McAfee||Jesse Hake||Luke Markunas|
2. Ground Sloths (7-4, – GB); Week: 3-0 W3; Tiebreaker: 1-2 vs. Merchants
Description: After a 1-3 week that saw the Ground Sloths fall three games back of the Merchants, the Sloths answered back with a 3-0 week with wins over each team, and with help from the BlueCaps and Bobcats, the Sloths are back to even with the Merchants. Offensively, the team slash was much better at .300/.434/.450 compared to last week’s .258/.348/.381. The Ground Sloths didn’t have just one guy this week offensively, as plenty of guys stood out with great performances from Davey Fitzpatrick, Eli Moore, Noah Campbell, Cole Nelson, and Peyton Dillingham. Momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher, and Austin Baker, Ryan Behling, and Keegan Gagliardo passed the baton this week, pitching to a starter’s ERA of 0.54 in 13 innings of work, each starter went 4+ innings, and each picked up a win. The entire team had an ERA of 1.10 this week, much better than the team ERA of 5.42 through the first two weeks. If the Sloths continue to pitch it better, they have a real chance to win the regular-season crown, if not the whole championship.
Lights-out Reliever: #12 Logan Wombles, LHP (Lakeland CC Freshman) – 4 GP, 9.0 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 0.79 ERA, 0.89 WHIP
Logan Wombles has been the man out of the pen for the Ground Sloths, pitching in 4 games, with a stat line of 9 innings, six hits, 1 earned run, and eight strikeouts with a .778 ERA, .889 WHIP, and a 2.83 FIP. Without Wombles, the Sloths would not be tied for first place, and they will need to continue to rely on him down the stretch to succeed in the race for first.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Garrett Latoz||Luke Lawrence|
|2B||Matt Armstrong||Noah Campbell||Cole Nelson||Eli Moore|
|3B||Eli Moore||Noah Campbell||Cale Steinbaugh||Davey Fitzpatrick|
|SS||Cale Steinbaugh||Cole Nelson||Matt Armstrong|
|LF||JP Gauthier||Quinn Willard||Evan Jones||Bryce Bishop|
|CF||Gavin Gonzalez||Chase Adams||Quinn Willard||Bryce Bishop|
|RF||Peyton Dillingham||Quinn Willard||Evan Jones||JP Gauthier|
|DH||Bryce Bishop||Peyton Dillingham||Garrett Latoz||Luke Lawrence|
|SP||Keegan Gagliardo||Austin Baker||Ryan Behling||Garrett Swingler||Evan Jones|
|RP||Logan Wombles||Ben Dickerson||Ben Dickerson||Trey Krause||Brayden Closs|
|CL||Isaiha Immke||Alex Smith||Bryce Lohman|
3. Bobcats (4-7, 3 GB); Week: 1-2 L1; Tiebreaker: 2-1 vs. BlueCaps
Description: The Bobcats didn’t quite keep the bats hot this week when compared to last week, and as a result lost two of their three games by the score of 4-1. On the bright side, the bats caught fire against the Merchants to beat them 10-8. Eli Hensley had a two-hit game as well as 5 RBIs to top it all off. He looked like the best hitter not only on his team this week but in the entire KCL. The Bobcats had plenty of other guys play well in that game, such as Jackson Blemler who had 2 RBIs as well. Parker Mathieson and Bryce Hazzard displayed their ability to get on and score, as they each had 3 runs scored. When it came to pitching the Bobcats had a very good week despite the record. They posted a team ERA of around 4.60, but they only allowed 4 runs in each of their losses. This is manageable considering the Bobcats have one of the better offenses in the league. For example, Auggie Rasmussen came back down to Earth this week, and still posted a ridiculous .944 OPS for the week, good for sixth on his own team. With five games this week, it will be hard to keep the pitching staff fully rested, but this is the case for all teams. It’s shaping up to be a slugfest this week plus it’ll be hot all this week, so it’s a great week to have the Bobcat’s offense. The Bobcats will play the BlueCaps and Merchants twice a piece, then the Ground Sloths in the middle of those.
Lights-out Reliever: #23 Ryne Willard, LHP (SWIC Freshman) – 5 GP, 7.0 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 8 H, 5.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
Even though Drew Martin had another great week, Ryne Willard had an even better one. He appeared in 2 games out of the bullpen and had three strikeouts in 2.2 innings. His command was on display as well as he did not allow any walks. He even got credited with a save in his game against the Merchants. Overall, Willard has the only two saves on the Bobcats. He leads the league in saves over the season so far, and expect him to get a lot more as the season continues.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Hayden Stork||Colin Kalinowski||Lucas Ryan|
|1B||Evan Hutson||Bubba Mote|
|2B||Eli Hensley||Dan Mosele||Jackson Blemler||Brady Alexander|
|3B||Bubba Mote||Alec McGinnis||Dan Mosele||Jackson Blemler|
|SS||Jackson Blemler||Shai Robinson||Alec McGinnis||Dan Mosele|
|LF||Brady Alexander||Parker Mathieson||Tyson Mickie||Bryce Hazzard|
|CF||Auggie Rasmussen||Parker Mathieson||Tyson Mickie|
|RF||Bryce Hazzard||Tyson Mickie||Ryne Willard||Brady Alexander|
|DH||Tyson Mickie||Eli Hensley||Lucas Ryan||Bryce Hazzard|
|SP||Will Jackson||Tommy White||Nick Barlow||Isaac Reigler||Jack Bach|
|RP||Drew Martin||Logan Antrim||Chase Gockel||Christian Badorek||Brendan Short|
|CL||Ryne Willard||Seth Hotze|
4. BlueCaps (4-7, 3 GB); Week: 2-1 W1; Tiebreaker: 1-2 vs. Bobcats
Description: Despite being in last place to end the week for the third week in a row, things are looking up for the BlueCaps after going 2-1 this week, bringing them back to a tie for third place with the Bobcats. The BlueCaps started off their three-game week with a 4-1 victory over the Bobcats, their first win over their rivals this season thanks to a stellar performance by Pitcher of the Week Jake Swartz. Saturday, just like the rest of the league this week, they took a loss to the red-hot Bobcats 4-2. Finally, in the best game in the league this week, the BlueCaps clutched out a 4-3 home-run derby victory against the league’s top team behind the bat of Ben Karpowicz, making them the only team to beat the Merchants twice this season, both times scoring the game-winning run in the seventh inning or later. The BlueCaps heavily relied on their pitcher this week giving up 7 runs in 3 games, good for an ERA of 2.33 behind strong starts by league-ERA/WHIP leader and Week 2 Pitcher of the Week Griffin McCluskey (4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 6 K), Jake Swartz (Pitcher of the Week, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K), and Keegan Buksa (4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 K), as well as Nick Sharp (1.2 IP, 2 GP, 1 SV, 5 K) and Aaron Agee (2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3K), among others in the bullpen. Hitting highlights include Dom Ferrari’s 3 RBIs, Mike Maloney going 3/7 with 2 RBIs, and a league-high 10 SB this week (2 by McGill, Maloney, Lynch, and Carpita; 1 by Karpowicz and Hagen). It also helped to have a .988 fielding percentage this week, after having a .953 fielding percentage through the first eight games. With the busiest week of the entire season ahead, seeing 5 games in 5 days, and the BlueCaps beginning to find their expected pitching dominance, it is a good chance for the BlueCaps to begin racking up some wins.
Lights-out Reliever: #19 Graham O’Gorman, RHP (Hope College Freshman) – 6 GP, 6.0 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Graham O’Gorman leads the league in pitching appearances coming out of the ‘Caps pen 6 times having yet to allow a run in 6 innings of work. O’Gorman has given up 5 H, 1 BB, and 1 HBP to go along with 5 K and a .208 BAA, pitching in 2 of the 4 ‘Caps wins this season. Additionally, he has a .596 strike percentage and a .577 first-pitch strike percentage leading to outs in 73.3% of those at-bats. With five weeks left in this young KCL season, expect to see O’Gorman’s number 19 jersey on the mound for the Caps at least ten more times this season.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Trevor Davis||Dom Ferrari|
|1B||Patrick Mulcahey||Zach Carpita||Jayden Comia||Liam McGill|
|2B||Gage Wolfe||Mitch Murphy||Trevor Davis|
|3B||Mike Maloney||Zach Carpita||Jayden Comia||Mitch Murphy|
|SS||Liam McGill||Jayden Comia||Gage Wolfe||Mike Maloney|
|LF||Hunter Brewer||Ben Karpowicz||Ty Coartney||Mitch Murphy|
|CF||Sean Lynch||Joey Hagen||Liam McGill|
|RF||Brock Minor||Ty Coartney||Joey Hagen||Hunter Brewer|
|DH||Joey Hagen||Gage Wolfe||Mike Maloney||Dom Ferrari|
|SP||Griffin McCluskey||Keegan Buksa||Kolby Pemberton||Jake Swartz||Julius Sanchez|
|RP||Graham O’Gorman||Braden Roesch||Shane Moore||Mason Telford||Ryan Borberg|
|CL||Nick Sharp||Aaron Agee||Will O’Gorman|
Hitter of the Week: Bobcats #15 Eli Hensley, SS/2B (Blackhawk CC Commit) – 6/10, 5 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, .667 BARISP, 1.267 OPS
Eli Hensley had a fantastic week for the Bobcats. In his 10 at-bats over the week, Hensley had six hits. He also managed to work a walk and get on base via a hit by pitch. Over the week he got on base 67% of the times he got up to bat. While he had no extra-base hits, he still batted in five runs. In three games played, Hensley managed to get at least one hit in all of them. Hensley was a huge factor in the Bobcats’ win against the Merchants, in which he recorded all five of his RBIs for the week. The best part about Hensley’s game is that he just puts the ball in play, as he only struck out twice and put up a .600 average. With an incredibly high on-base percentage, his OPS for the week was team-leading at 1.267. Over the season, Hensley now has the second-highest OPS on the team as well as being second on the team in batting average and hits. Since he seems to be heating up, it makes the Bobcats’ lineup even scarier than it already is. There is plenty of protection in the lineup for Bobcats’ hitters like Hensley to thrive throughout the next week.
Pitcher of the Week: BlueCaps #12 Jake Swartz, RHP (Illinois Commit) – 5 IP, W, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K
Jake Swartz made his KCL debut on Thursday with the BlueCaps against the Bobcats, and he did not disappoint, pitching five innings, giving up no earned runs, and striking out 7. Swartz was very efficient with 72 pitches (52 strikes, 72% S). 15 of these pitches were first-pitch strikes (75% FPS), which he used to retire 80% of those batters who saw a first-pitch strike. The Illinois commit is a significant addition to the BlueCaps, who have struggled to pitch and have a productive offense the first three weeks. However, they are starting to settle in now with a starting trio of Griffin McCluskey, Julius Sanchez, and now Jake Swartz, in addition to one of the best relievers in the leagues so far in Graham O’ Gorman. This could lead to them winning more games as well as potentially making themselves one of the best two teams in the league.
Schedule and Results
Last Week’s Predicated Game of the Week: Ground Sloths 4 Bobcats 1, Sunday, June 12 Game 2
This game was not quite an offensive showcase as expected, but it was still a great game nonetheless. As the game went on, it became more and more of a pitcher’s duel. The Ground Sloths’ pitching core did not give up a run until the last inning of this game. The Bobcats, on the other hand, gave up three early runs and then held it down from there. Despite the lower run totals, there were plenty of hits to go around. Eli Hensley had three hits alone for the Bobcats and Eli Moore had two for the Sloths. Keegan Gagliardo continued to solidify himself as one of the best starters in the KCL, going four innings and striking six batters along the way. For the Bobcats, Ryne Willard went 1.2 innings and struck out two batters. While he wasn’t up for a save, he still proved that he was one of the best relievers of the week. Overall, the Bobcats and Ground Sloths are both 2-2 against each other so far this year. They play each other once this week, so the tie will have to be broken sooner rather than later.
Actual Game of the Week: BlueCaps 4 Merchants 3 F/8, Sunday, June 12 Game 1
After dropping two straight games, the Merchants were looking to bounce back against the BlueCaps. Sharp was on the bump for the Merchants and had a good outing, going 5 IP, and only allowing 1 R on 2 H and 2 SO. Garard came in the 6th and tried to get the win, however, he allowed 4 H, 2 R, and 4 SO. While Sharp was good, McCluskey was lights out through 4. He only allowed 1 hit and struck out 6, exhibiting ace behavior for the BlueCaps. Borberg went 2 IP and allowed 2 runs on 2 hits while striking out 2 and allowing 1 free pass. Dom Ferrari got the offense started for the BlueCaps on a sac fly in the second inning. The Merchants showed some fight in the bottom of the 6th, tallying two runs. The Caps responded by doing the same; however, the Merchants weren’t going to go down without a fight. With two outs and the game on the line, a wild pitch scored Van Keuklon to tie the game up. A foul-out forced this game into a Home Run Derby, where Ben Karpowicz and Jack Shields were the players selected to represent the teams. Karpowicz hit one homer, while Shields was able to hit none, giving the BlueCaps a win in the first Home Run Derby of the Merchants’ season.
Next Week’s Game of the Week: Ground Sloths at Merchants, Saturday, June 18, 5:30 PM (Jurassic Park Night – Dino Stress Ball Giveaway)
This week the top two teams in the league will face off twice, once in Wednesday’s nightcap and again in this game’s projected game of the week on Saturday night. The Merchants hold the edge in the season series so far at 2-1, but the Ground Sloths dominated their most recent meeting with a 10-0 mercy rule victory that ended in 6. It will be a battle between the league’s best contact hitting, the Merchants, who lead the way in average (.299), R (66), OBP (.414), and an absurd .420 BABIP and the heaving-hitting Ground Sloths, leading the league in HR (4 + 2 Derby HR’s), SLG (.416), and OPS (.819). Additionally, it will be Jurassic Park Night at the ballpark that night, which should favor the Ground Sloths as a fellow extinct species.
Just for Fun: Favorite KCL Team
Two weeks ago, the interns were asked to vote on their favorite logo, of which the Ground Sloths won with 42% of the vote, followed by the Merchants (29%), Bobcats (19%), and BlueCaps (10%). Now after 11 games, interns were asked which team they were rooting for to win the KCL this season and although the 1 and 2 were the same, the Ground Sloths dominated this poll as a clear intern favorite with a majority (55%) rolling with the Sloths. Additionally, in results that are essentially the inverse of the interns, the BlueCaps and Bobcats have the most fans on Gamechanger. Follow your favorite team on Gamechanger to get all the most up-to-date results, lineup changes, roster changes, scores, and more at https://gc.com/g/kclbaseball22.
- June 10: Ground Sloths sign RHP #34 Richie Snider from UIS