KCL Weekly Update 4: Ground Sloths Lead at Season Midpoint
1. Ground Sloths (10-6, – GB); Week: 3-2, W1
Description: The Ground Sloths have continued to ride their hot streak straight up to number one in the standings after a 3-2 week. The Ground Sloths took over the number one spot from the Merchants on Wednesday after beating the Merchants 4-2 and then beat the BlueCaps 9-3 on Thursday. However, they gave it up after 10-6 and 4-2 losses to the Bobcats and Merchants on Friday and Saturday respectively. To end the crazy week in the standings, the Ground Sloths retook the lead on Sunday after beating the BlueCaps 7-1. The Ground Sloths end the week one game up on the Merchants and two games up on the Bobcats. The Ground Sloths will play the Merchants once and the Bobcats twice next week, and will need to continue their hot streak to end next week in first place.
The Sloths lineup had a great week, hitting .292 while driving in an average of 5.6 runs per game. Peyton Dillingham and Davey Fitzpatrick both continued to deliver while at the plate, going a combined 7 for 18 with 3 walks and 3 HBP, also scoring 6 runs and driving in 3. Bryce Bishop had a solid week as well, with a slash line of .375/.583/.500, an OPS of 1.083, and 4 runs scored. Cale Steinbaugh hit .500 and drove in 3 runs, Gavin Gonzalez hit .308 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored, and JP Gauthier hit .364 with 2 RBIs to add to the Sloths strong lineup. Daniel Pacella debuted this week and took no time to settle in, slashing .375/.421/.563, doubling 3 times, driving in 2, and scoring 3. Interestingly, Pacella was the only player to play in all 5 games for the Sloths, and the debutant looks to be an integral part of the Sloths lineup moving forward.
On the mound, the Ground Sloths continue to post the best numbers in the KCL, posting an ERA of 3.09, a WHIP of 1.59, and a FIP of 2.82, while striking out 48 and only yielding 19 walks. Nate Righi led the way this week, with an impressive 5 innings against the Merchants to vault the Sloths into first place. Righi struck out 13 while only allowing 5 baserunners. He did give up 2 runs, but neither was earned in this fantastic start. Keegan Gagliardo continued an impressive season, allowing 1 run (0 earned) in 4 innings of work, striking out 4 while only allowing 4 baserunners. The Sloths’ bullpen continues to amaze, with Chase Adams leading the way with 3 scoreless innings, striking out 2 while only giving up 2 hits and walking none. Richie Snider, Trey Krause, Logan Wombles, Evan Jones, and Isaiah Immke all put in extremely commendable performances as well, with a combined 7.2 innings of the no-run ball while striking out 10, giving up 5 hits and 7 walks. Snider also got the save in the Wednesday game against the Merchants. Joey Wilmoth, Austin Baker, and Garrett Swingler all had started to forget but will look to bounce back in the coming weeks.
Midseason MVP: #10 Peyton Dillingham, RF/DH (UIS Grad Student) – 13/38, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 13 R, 7 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, .342/.458/1.011
Peyton Dillingham has been the heart and soul of the Ground Sloths lineup, so it only makes sense he has played himself into MVP consideration. Following another strong week in which Dillingham hit .364 with an OBP of .467, also knocking in 2 runs and scoring 5 runs in 4 games. Dillingham places on the league leaderboard in several categories, being second in slugging percentage (.553), tied for second in home runs (2), third in runs scored (13), OPS (1.011), and OPS+ (162.63). He is also fourth in runs created (9.33) average (.352), and OBP (.458). Dillingham is also sixth in RBIs (9) and eighth in walks (7) and hits (13). He has also played in 13 of his team’s 16 games, as a model of consistency. Another strong point in favor of Dillingham is that the Ground Sloths are in first place. MVP voters love to give the MVP to a player on a good team, and Dillingham happens to play for the best team at the moment. He faces stiff competition from others in the league, but if he can keep producing, he might just have a shot at taking home the league MVP.
Midseason Cy Young: #4 Keegan Gagliardo, LHP (ISU Sophomore) – 15.2 IP, 4 GS, 2-1, 15 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 26 K, 1.34 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .66 FIP
Keegan Gagliardo has made a strong case for himself to be the Cy Young at the end of the season. Another strong week saw Gagliardo not give up an earned run while striking out 4 in a win against the BlueCaps on Sunday. To compare his stats, we will take a look at how he stacks up against other qualified starters, as the Cy Young award almost always goes to starters. Gagliardo is second in the league in ERA (1.34), ERA+ (170.7), xFIP (2.17) and WHIP (1.149). Gagliardo leads the league in FIP (.658) and is tied for first in wins (2) and games started (4). He is also second in strikeouts (26) and fourth in BAA (.259). Some other stats of note are Gagliardo is sixth in innings pitched (15.2) and batters faced (63), and ninth in number of pitches (227). One thing to note is Gagliardo seems to be getting stronger with each outing. He won both his last two outings, going 4 innings in each and striking out 10 while walking 1, giving up no earned runs in that stretch. This is a promising sign, as he seems to be on a hot streak that could take him through the end of the season. Gagliardo will continue to be a Cy Young watch candidate as he puts up impressive performances.
Projected Depth Chart
Note: If a player changed positions or is new they are underlined. If a player’s positional depth changed, but they remained at that position their name is italicized
|C||Luke Lawrence||Tyler Woltman|
|1B||Daniel Pacella||Davey Fitzpatrick|
|2B||Matt Armstrong||Cole Nelson||Noah Campbell||Cale Steinbaugh|
|3B||Eli Moore||Davey Fitzpatrick||Noah Campbell||Cale Steinbaugh|
|SS||Cale Steinbaugh||Cole Nelon||Eli Moore||Matt Armstrong|
|LF||JP Gauthier||Evan Jones||Quinn Willard||Bryce Bishop|
|CF||Gavin Gonzalez||Chase Adams||Quinn Willard||Bryce Bishop|
|RF||Peyton Dillingham||Quinn Willard||Bryce Bishop||Evan Jones|
|DH||Bryce Bishop||Peyton Dillingham||Luke Lawrence||Davey Fitzpatrick|
|SP||Keegan Gagliardo||Austin Baker||Garrett Swingler||Nate Righi||Joey Wilmoth|
|RP||Logan Wombles||Ben Dickerson||Trey Krause||Brayden Closs||Ryan Behling|
|CL||Isaiha Immke||Richie Snider||Alex Smith||Bryce Lohman|
2. Merchants (9-7, 1 GB); Week: 2-3, L1
Description: The Merchants are 2-3 on the week, a slight slump for the projected number one team as the Ground Sloths place themselves in first at the season midpoint. The Merchants have been powered by solid hitting from a large portion of their lineup in players like Derek Bottaletto, Camden Porter, Jack Shields, and Zach Otten. Bottaletto and Otten get on base at elite clips while Camden Porter and Jack Shields slug the ball well. They also have two incredibly high-level bats in Van Heuklon and Lutz. Van Heuklon gets on base at an elite .558 clip, where his best attribute is his ability to draw walks, currently having 12 to only 6 Ks. In addition, Beau Durbin has had a great debut in the past few games and looks like exactly what the Merchants need to take back first place as a speedy infielder with pop. Expect Durbin to shoot up the lineup and absolutely tear the cover off the ball, something he did early on by homering in his first KCL game.
On the pitching side, their starting rotation has been powered by the trio of Addison Fletcher (7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), Cade Sharp (16 IP, 1-0, 11 H, 4 ER, 13 K, 10 BB, 1.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and Cy Young Candidate Nathan Garard who each have three starts on the season. The Merchants are the only team with more than 1 qualified pitcher by innings pitch with Nathan Garard and Cade Sharp combining with primary reliever Ryan Bredeson (6 GP, 16.1 IP, 1 GS, 2-1, SV, 24 H, 12 ER, 12 K, 5.14 ERA, 1.83 WHIP) to eat the most innings for the team. Bredeson is also the only pitcher in the league with a win, loss, and save to his record. Although Fletcher only has seven innings pitched, it is likely that as he continues easing into the season, his pitch count and workload will continue to increase, as was already seen in his most recent start with a season-high 3 IP. The Merchants are also not afraid to put anyone in a pitcher with a league-high six players with at least 1 AB and .1 IP (Antony Martinez, Logan Van Heuklon, Kaiden Rixner, Travis Lutz, Nathan Garard, and Evan McAfee). Overall, they continue to be a very good contact team with a deep lineup and staff to back up their consistency on the base paths, as they look to reclaim their recently lost first place slot.
Midseason MVP: #14 Travis Lutz, RF/DH/RHP (ICC -> Bradley Commit) – 14/26, 3 2B, 2 3B, HR, 10 RBI, 6 R, 7 BB, 6 K, 1 SB, .538/.636/1.559
Despite only batting in nine out of sixteen games on the season and not even technically being in the Merchants’ starting projected depth chart based on the first 16 games, Lutz has still made a significant impact for the Merchants. He is Top 3 on the team in almost every major hitting statistic, and also finds himself in the league Top 10 for 3B (2, 1st), RC (15.27, 2nd), HR (1, 5th), RBI (10, 5th), 2B (3, 5th), H (14, 6th), and BB (7, 8th). Additionally, he would be league-leading in average (.538), on-base percentage (.636), slugging (.923), and OPS (1.559) if he were not six trips to the plate under the qualification mark for hitters. Lutz began garnering league-wide attention with a pair of heroic Player of the Game performances that vaulted the Merchants back into first place for a day, winning a derby vs. the BlueCaps on Friday with a derby-high four home runs in the Actual Game of the Week, followed by a three-run bomb the next day in the Predicted Game of the Week that ended up being the difference-maker vs. the Ground Sloths. When his 33 plate appearances are placed side-by-side with the current MVP favorite (Auggie Rasmussen)’s first 33 appearances, the numbers are nearly identical. The reason that Lutz has only appeared in nine games: although a two-way player, his primary position appears to have consistently been pitcher, as he led his ICC team in IP with 65, but was 11th in at-bats with 67 in 2022. However, one look at his numbers at the KCL through the first half, may be enough to not only convince his next stop, Bradley University, to rethink his role with the Braves, but also for the Merchants to begin making him a more regular part of the starting lineup.
Midseason Cy Young: #21 Nathan Garard, RHP/OF/DH (Eureka Junior) – 16.0 IP, 4 GP, 3 GS, 1-1, 17 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 21 K, 3.50 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 1.65 FIP
Similar to many players on the league’s smallest roster, Garard has both hit and pitch for the Merchants this season, having served as the LF, CF, RF, and DH in the lineup. However, his performance on the mound has been the most impressive part of his game so far and earned him well-deserved attention in the Cy Young race. Garard has appeared in four games this season on the bump, three times as a starter and once as a reliever. In his three starts, he has gone 14 innings with a record of 1-1 behind 13 H, 6 ER, and only 2 BB to 17 K. His only non-quality start of the three was his most recent start against the league’s hottest lineup in the Bobcats, instead having two dominant starts on KCL opening day vs. a depleted Bobcats roster and against the worst offense in the league in the BlueCaps. In his one relief appearance, also against the Bobcats, he went 2 IP with 4 H and 2 ER, but 4 K. Garard is one of the best if not the best pitcher of the league in terms of control, as he did not surrender a walk in his first fourteen innings of work and leads the league in strike percentage at an impressive 73.4%. Garard will likely continue to be utilized as a starting pitcher once per week and his impressive command that has already led to an astounding 10.5 strikeout-to-walk-ratio will serve him and the Merchants well as he looks to not only keep his name in the running for Cy Young, but also to keep the Merchants in the running for first place in the regular season, especially if he gets his first chance against their rival, the Sloths.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Karter Hostetler||Demetrius Schupp||Logan Van Heuklon|
|1B||Anthony Martinez||Karter Hostetler||Evan McAfee||Ben Nofsinger|
|2B||Camden Porter||Chris Lecrone||Beau Durbin|
|3B||Chris LeCrone||Jack Keuthe||Anthony Martinez||Logan Van Heuklon|
|SS||Derek Botaletto||Beau Durbin||Camden Porter|
|LF||Jack Shields||Kaiden Rixner||Nathan Garard||Anthony Martinez|
|CF||Zach Otten||Jack Shields||Jack Keuthe||Nathan Garard|
|RF||Jack Keuthe||Travis Lutz||Nathan Garard||Kaiden Rixner|
|DH||Logan Van Heuklon||Travis Lutz||Karter Hostetler||Nathan Garard|
|SP||Nathan Garard||Cade Sharp||Addison Fletcher||Wes Hunt||Luke Markunas|
|RP||Evan McAfee||Parker Brodine||Nick Hainline||Travis Luutz|
|CL||Jesse Hake||Ryan Bredeson||Logan Van Heuklon||Anthony Martinez|
3. Bobcats (8-8, 2 GB); Week: 4-1, W4
Description: The Bobcats continued their upward trend in the standings with another solid week of KCL games under their belt. The Cats went 4-1 last week, losing their first game to the BlueCaps on Wednesday before going on a 4-game win streak to bring themselves within just 2 games of the first-place Ground Sloths in the standings. After a slow start to the season, the Bobcats have been one of the hottest teams in recent weeks, thanks in large part to an improving offensive unit that is scoring an average of 7.5 runs per game during this win streak. The team features one of the most potent combos in the league with MIF Jackson Blemler, CF Auggie Rasmussen, and SS Shai Robinson who form the top of the order and consistently set the tone for the rest of the lineup by getting on base early and often in games. The Bobcats play an exciting brand of baseball and lately, that excitement has translated into a lot of wins on the field. If they want to keep the good vibes flowing, the offense, and in particular that three-headed monster at the forefront of it all, will need to keep mashing.
Midseason MVP: #11 Auggie Rasmussen, CF (Iowa West CC and ISU Commit Freshman) – 22/42, 5 2B, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 15 R, 9 BB, 8 K, 9 SB, .524/.608/1.465
Auggie Rasmussen may very well be the clear-cut MVP of the entire KCL at this point and at the moment, it isn’t even particularly close. Rasmussen has played in all but two of the Bobcats’ games this season so far and has reached base safely in each of his 14-game appearances. He is currently riding a 13-game hitting streak and is still batting over .500 almost a month into the season. He paces the entire KCL in hits (22), home runs (3), runs batted in (19), runs scored (15), and stolen bases (9). He also leads his team in walks (9) and quality at-bats (35), all while playing very solid defense in center field. Auggie has really done it all for the Bobcats this season and is a big reason why they are right back in the thick of the KCL standings after struggling mightily to put a competitive product on the field at the start of the summer.
Midseason Cy Young: #18 Drew Martin, RHP (Heartland Freshman) – 11.0 IP, 4 GP, 1 GS, 2-0, 10 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, 3.18 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 1.79 FIP
In what has otherwise been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the Bobcats’ pitching staff this season, Drew Martin has provided some much-needed stability out of the bullpen for a team that prefers to slug its way to victory. Martin has yet to give up more than 2 runs in any game this summer while pitching primarily in a long relief type role. In 11 total innings of work, Drew has given up 5 earned runs on 10 hits and 5 walks with 14 strikeouts for a solid 3.18 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. While he might not sport the flashy strikeout totals or a dazzling low ERA, he’s proven to be a guy who the Bobcats can call on to simply get the job done. Martin is a reliable arm capable of eating multiple innings when you need him to and can effectively keep you in games late by keeping the opponent off the scoreboard.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Hayden Stork||Lucas Ryan||Colin Kalinowski|
|1B||Evan Hutson||Colin Kalinowski||Bubba Mote|
|2B||Jackson Blemler||Alec McGinnis||Eli Hensley||Dan Mosele|
|3B||Bubba Mote||Dan Mosele||Alec McGinnis||Jackson Blemler|
|SS||Shai Robinson||Jackson Blemler||Alec McGinnis||Dan Mosele|
|LF||Brady Alexander||James Duncan||Parker Mathieson||Tyson Mickie|
|CF||Auggie Rasmussen||Tyson Mickie||Parker Mathieson|
|RF||Bryce Hazzard||Parker Mathieson||Tyson Mickie||Brady Alexander|
|DH||Eli Hensley||Tyson Mickie||Lucas Ryan||Bryce Hazzard|
|SP||Will Jackson||Tommy White||Nick Barlow||Jack Bach||Mitchell Sampson|
|RP||Drew Martin||Logan Antrim||Chase Gockel||Christian Badorek||Isaac Riegler|
|CL||Ryne Willard||Thomas Harper||Seth Hotze||Brendan Short|
4. BlueCaps (5-11, 5 GB); Week: 1-4, L4
Description: Going into the week, the BlueCaps report stated, “With the busiest week of the entire season ahead, and the BlueCaps beginning to find their expected pitching dominance, it is a good chance for the BlueCaps to begin racking up some wins. This looked like it may be the case after their first game of the week, a 7-1 victory over the Bobcats with a combined effort by Will O’Gorman, Ryan Borberg, Braden Roesch, and Shane Moore giving up 4 hits and 1 run, including only 1 hit past the third inning. Since then it’s been a struggle for the Caps going 0-4 with a 9-3 loss to the Ground Sloths, 8-7 to the Merchants, 4-3 Bobcats, and 7-1 to the Ground Sloths. Two of these were blowout losses to the top team in the league, whose main highlights were a Patrick Mulcahey 2-run homer on Thursday and 3.2 innings of only 1 earned from the bullpen on Sunday. However, the middle two could have easily gone the other way. On Friday in the Game of the Week, the BlueCaps came back from down 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth with 2 outs, only for Ben Karpowicz to be unable to match Travis Lutz’s record-setting 4 home-run derby performance. Meanwhile, on Saturday, the BlueCaps once again had an impressive comeback via a bases-clearing 3-run double by Ty Coartney to tie it at 3, but lost in the 7th on a walk-off wild pitch.
Now going into the back-half of the season, the BlueCaps at 5-11 find themselves five games out of first place and three games behind their nearest opponent, the Bobcats at 8-8, with only 14 games left in the season. Although unlikely, it is not an insurmountable hill to climb, especially considering they still have four games remaining against the Sloths and Bobcats, and five against the Merchants. In order to do so, they will need more strong starts from their starting rotation and bullpen, which might be the best on paper, but posted a sky-high 5.46 ERA this week. They still have a strong Cy candidate in Griffin McCluskey (16 IP, 1-1, 27K, 5 BB, 1.31 ERA, .94 WHIP), which can be combined with Keegan Buksa (11.2 IP, 0-2, 10 K, 7 BB, 5.40 ERA, 1.80 WHIP), and Kolby Pemberton (8.2 IP, 0-1, 4 K, 6 BB, 8.08 ERA, 2.65 WHIP), who may not have the numbers right now, but certainly have the stuff to be a dominant pitching trio in the league. In addition, their top two bullpen arms have also put in work for the BlueCaps with Graham O’Gorman (8 GP, 9.1 IP, 8K, 3.00 ERA, 1.71 WHIP) and Nick Sharp (7 GP, 8.1 IP, 12K, 3.36 ERA, 1.92 WHIP) continuing to pitch well-below league-average ERA and making it tough for runners to score. Finally, on the hitting side, Mike Maloney leads the way in most major stats, including playing all 16 games, but finds support in the lineup from Patrick Mulcahey (.346/.370/.986, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R), Ty Coartney (.368/.429/1.113, 8 GP, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 R, .500 BABIP), and Gage Wolfe (.281/.439/.877, 2 3B, 4 RBI, 9 R, 3 SB). Again, while certainly not impossible, the BlueCaps need to improve as a whole in the back half of the season if they do not want to be stuck as the road team against the top-seed come playoff time.
Midseason MVP: #15 Mike Maloney, 3B/SS/DH (SWIC First-Year) – 16 GP, 16/53, 2 2B, 2 3B, 11 RBI, 10 R, 4 BB, 6 K, 7 SB, .302/.362/.777
Three players in the entire league have played in all sixteen games for their team and the only one not on the Merchants is named Mike Maloney. Sort by most offensive stats on the BlueCaps and Maloney will be near the top or at the top on pretty much all of them, leading the team in AVG (.302, 6th in league), H (16, 3rd), RBI (11, 4th), R (10, T-6th), 3B (2, T-1st), PA (58, 1st), AB (53, 1st), RC (7.72, 7th), while also being second in SLG (.415, 9th), second in SB (7, 3rd), and 3rd in OPS (.777, 9th). As the season has gone on, the league’s Iron Man has only gotten better, slashing .325/.386/.811 in the month of June, since only slashing .231/.286/.670 in the league’s first week. He has settled into his usual position in the lineup as the three-hole hitter with Liam McGill and Gage Wolfe doing a strong job of setting him up for success. He usually slides in at third base having played 11 games there with 0 errors in 28 TC (18 A, 10 PO), but has also once been found at SS, and occasionally at the DH spot when he gets some well-deserved rest in the field. Although the main argument right now against an MVP candidacy right now is that he plays for the team with the worst record, if the BlueCaps can start to turn it around, it will likely be behind the help of his bat, which can jumpstart him into the same realm as the hitters on the best teams.
Midseason Cy Young: #27 Griffin McCluskey, RHP (Valparaiso Freshman) – 16.0 IP, 4 GS, 1-1, 10 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 27 K, 1.31 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 0.75 FIP
Griffin McCluskey finally showed signs of being human this week, giving up his first three earned runs of the season in his fourth start, but despite this he still had a season-high 8 strikeouts, continuing to solidify his case for KCL Cy Young. Having pitched one game a week each week, McCluskey finds himself leading the league in strikeouts (27), games started (4), ERA (1.31), WHIP (0.94), BAA (.169), and xFIP (2.14), while being second in FIP (.746), second in number of pitches (271), and third in IP (16), all of which are team-highs. In each start he has gone exactly 4 innings, making him the only pitcher in the league to reach the win-qualifying number of innings 4 times. His first start of the season against the Ground Sloths saw him suffer the loss behind two unearned runs, even though he only gave up 3 H and 2 BB. In start two, he managed to get back in the win column as part of the ‘Caps’ 11-0 slaughtering of the Sloths with 7 K to go along with only 1 H and 2 BB in a five-inning mercy-rule game. Nine days later, he found himself on the mound again, helping the Caps secure a Derby victory over the Merchants behind a second consecutive start with only 1 H, as well as 0 BB and 6 K, meaning that of the 5 BlueCaps wins this season, he has been on the mound for 2. With 27 K to go along with only 5 BB, an ERA of 1.31, and his ability to consistently go at least half the game, McCluskey is likely to continue being at the top of the Cy Young discussion in the back half of the season.
Projected Depth Chart
|C||Trevor Davis||Dom Ferrari|
|1B||Patrick Mulcahey||Zach Carpita||Dom Ferrari|
|2B||Gage Wolfe||Mitch Murphy||Jayden Comia||Liam McGill|
|3B||Mike Maloney||Zach Carpita||Jayden Comia||Mitch Murphy|
|SS||Liam McGill||Jayden Comia||Gage Wolfe||Mike Maloney|
|LF||Ben Karpowicz||Hunter Brewer||Ty Coartney||Mitch Murphy|
|CF||Sean Lynch||Joey Hagen||Hunter Brewer||Mitch Murphy|
|RF||Brock Minor||Ty Coartney||Mitch Murphy||Hunter Brewer|
|DH||Dom Ferrari||Mike Maloney||Gage Wolfe||Patrick Mulcahey|
|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: Ground Sloths #32 Daniel Pacella, 1B (ISU Commit) – 6/16, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, .375/.421/.984
On June 10, Daniel Pacella went 2-4 with 2 RBI, 2 R, a double and a walk, as part of Pacella and Mundelein’s 12-0 rout of McHenry in the 2022 IHSA Illinois Baseball Class 4A State Semifinal, before losing in the Championship round the next day to 36-4 Edwardsville by a score of 4-3. With only three days of rest between the end of his high school career and the start of his KCL one, Pacella instantly made his presence known for the Ground Sloths starting all five games at first base with the numbers to justify a long-term stay in the starting lineup. Cautious with how he may adjust to the KCL, Pacella started Wednesday’s game in the six-hole, but going 1 for 3 was enough in the coaching staff’s eyes to move him up third in the lineup, where he batted in 3 out of 4 games this week. The only Ground Sloth to appear in all five games this week, Pacella went 6/16 with 2 RBI, 3 2B, 3 R, 2 BB, slashing .375/.421/.984. Although he may not have had the single best statistical week in the league, his numbers are especially impressive and worth spotlighting considering this was his first week and he has already made himself a regular in the Ground Sloths lineup. All seventeen total chances he saw in the field yielded a putout, placing his fielding percentage at a perfect 1.000. This is the first week of the season that the Ground Sloths have ended in sole possession of first place and it is no coincidence that it aligns with Pacella’s debut week.
Pitcher of the Week: Ground Sloths #7 Nate Righi, RHP (Parkland CC Sophomore) – 5 IP, W, 4 H, 2 ER, 13 K
Righi put up his best KCL performance on Wednesday night in an important matchup against the Merchants with first place on the line. Nate dominated the Merchants lineup from the first pitch on as he recorded a KCL-best 13 strikeouts over 5 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 walk while allowing zero earned runs on the evening. It was a defining moment for Righi and the Ground Sloths, who entered the day tied with the Merchants for the best record in the league and came away with sole possession of first place after defeating their rivals head to head. The KCL standings are shaping up to be a dogfight the rest of the way and if the Sloths want to hold off the rest of the pack and grab the top seed for the playoffs, they’re going to need more performances like Wednesday from Righi and the rest of the pitching staff.
Last Week’s Predicted Game of the Week: Merchants 4 Ground Sloths 2, Saturday, June 18 Game 2
Although not the best game this week, the predicted game of the week still turned out to be a good game between the top of the league standings. The stakes for the game could not have been higher with the Merchants entering only one game out of first and with the two teams having split their first four meetings, a Merchants’ victory meant that by a tiebreaker, they would become the number one team in the league again. Both starting pitchers, Austin Baker for the Sloths and Cade Sharp for the Merchants, cruised through the first two innings of Jurassic Park Night. Then with two-on and one-out in the third, Travis Lutz, fresh off his heroic derby performance the day before, hit a T-Rex-sized bomb to right-center, giving the Merchants the early 3-0 lead, which earned him Player of the Game honors. While Cade Sharp continued a stellar performance for the Merchants, totaling 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 K, and Pitcher of the Game Honors by the end of the night, Austin Baker was eventually replaced by lights-out reliever Logan Wombles to limit the damage of bases-loaded 1-out to only 1 in the bottom of the fifth. The Ground Sloths did not back down, managing two runs in the 6th behind an Evan Jones single and a Merchants’ defensive misplay that scored two, but Jesse Hake pitched a strong seventh to secure his first save of the season and a Merchants victory that kept them in first place for one day, but temporarily securing a 3-2 lead in the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ground Sloths.
Actual Game of the Week: Merchants 8 BlueCaps 7 F/8, Friday, June 17 Game 1
The actual game of the week was unexpected, especially if you just watched the first 5 innings. The Merchants were cruising through the game, leading 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth with two outs and nobody on. However, the BlueCaps rallied to score 5 runs in the inning, led by a 3-run home run by Ben Karpowicz. Karpowicz came up again in the bottom of the seventh with two on and two out and doubled in both runners to tie the game at 7-7. The inning ended tied and went to the only home run derby of the week. Although the game was looking like the Karpowicz show at this point, Travis Lutz stole the spotlight. Lutz went to work in the derby, absolutely smashing 4 home runs, only taking 9 of his 10 possible swings to do so. Karpowicz tried his best to continue his heroics but was only able to hit 1 home run. It is worth noting that the previous record in a home run derby was 2 home runs, and Lutz doubled the record while taking one less swing than he could have. This is the second straight week in which the Merchants vs. BlueCaps ended up being the game of the week, and both games were decided via the home run derby.
For the Merchants, Fletcher started strongly, pitching 3 scoreless innings, only giving up 2 hits, earning the Pitcher of the Game award. Rixner came in for 2.2 innings and while he gave up 5 runs, none were earned and he struck out 5 batters as well while putting 5 runners on base. Van Heuklon pitched the last 1.1 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking 2 out, allowing 5 baserunners. Durbin went 2 for 4 with a run, an RBI, and a stolen base, Shields was 1 for 2 with a run, a home run and 2 RBIs, and Van Heuklon, in addition to pitching, went 3 for 4 with a run and 2 RBIs at the plate. Travis Lutz went 1 for 4 with a run before absolutely destroying the ball during the home run derby, going 4 for 9 and earning Player of the Game in the process.
For the BlueCaps, Agee started with 4 innings of 3-run (2 earned) ball, striking out 5. Hagen went an inning, also giving up 3 runs (2 earned), striking out 3, and allowing 4 baserunners. Sharp then took the last two innings, giving up 1 run from 3 baserunners. Carpita walked twice, scoring 2 runs, and Mulcahey went 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI. Karpowicz had a monster day, going 2 for 4 with a run, a home run, 5 RBIs, and a stolen base.
Next Week’s Game of the Week: Bobcats at Ground Sloths, Sunday, June 26, 5:30 PM (Sunday Night Baseball)
The KCL’s two hottest teams will face off on Sunday when the league-leading Ground Sloths (10-6, 3-2 previous week) take on the surging Bobcats (8-8, 4-1 previous week). The Ground Sloths currently lead the series 2-3, with matchups on Wednesday and the Game of the Week on Sunday. The Bobcats will look to take down the league leaders and close the two-game gap between them, while the Sloths will look to firmly establish their place on the leaderboard. It will be a matchup of the pitching staff of the Sloths, league leaders in ERA (3.86), FIP (3.56), SO (142), and BB (53), and the heavy hitters of the Bobcats, league leaders in doubles (27), runs scored (88), stolen bases (39), and GIDP (2). We will see if the Sunday game slot will affect the result. The Bobcats are 2-2 on Sundays, while the Sloths are 3-1 on Sundays. The teams are 1-1 head-to-head on Sundays.
Just for Fun: Theme Night Most Excited For
Here at the Corn Crib, every Saturday (and even some Fridays) means Theme Nights, which often draw the largest crowd of the season. So far this season, the Corn Crib has seen Find Bigfoot Night, Charity Night, Awful Night, Toy Story Night, Frontline Friday, Nickelodeon Night, and Jurassic Park Night, but around 2/3 of the theme nights for the season still remain. Therefore with seven nights already in the past, the interns of the Crib were asked which of the remaining nights they were most looking forward to with a clear top two emerging: Margaritaville on July 8 and Star Wars Night on July 16, which also happens to be the KCL Championship Game. The full results can be seen below and the Corn Crib hopes to see you at your favorite option!
- June 14 – Sloths release #15 C Garrett Latoz, sign #15 C Tyler Woltman from ISU
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