In the past forty-eight days at the Corn Crib, 122 baseball players from around the Bloomington-Normal Area, the state of Illinois, and the entire country have played at least one game as a member of the BlueCaps, Bobcats, Ground Sloths, and Merchants in the Kernels Collegiate League. During that time, 541 runs have crossed the plate over the course of 377 innings in 54 games. There have been mercy-rule blowouts, multi-run home run derby eighth innings, and clutch walk-offs coinciding with heartbreaking defeats (see Chase Adams walk-off grand slam), stellar pitching performances, and so much more. It has all been leading up to this.
Wednesday and Thursday will be the final two games of the KCL regular season. After these two games, the number one overall seed, which the Ground Sloths have clinched, will play the last-place team, while the 2 seed will play the 3 seed, with the 1 and 2 seeds being the home teams on Friday, July 15. Then the winner of those two games will play in the KCL Championship on Saturday, July 16 in a full nine-inning game on Star Wars Night. In all playoff games, the extra-inning home run derby is replaced by playing until one team scores more in one inning than the other. Seeding tiebreakers are in order 1) head-to-head record vs. team, 2) Run Differential, 3) Record excluding derby, 4) Record Last 10, 5) Coin Flip. While unlikely, in the case of a three-way tie between the Merchants, BlueCaps, and Bobcats, the first tiebreaker would be record excluding games played against the Ground Sloths instead.
More postseason content for the KCL (and Cornbelters) will be posted for the remainder of the summer including one additional postseason recap weekly update, postseason awards, and a research project. Fans, hopefully, you have enjoyed the KCL season as much as the Kernelytics staff has enjoyed working it. With two games remaining in the regular season, followed by a two-day playoff, any team can still take home the crown. Thank you!
1. x-Ground Sloths (18-9, – GB); Week: 2-1, W1
Schedule: 4-1 W vs BlueCaps, 3-9 L vs Bobcats, 8-2 W vs Merchants
Tiebreakers: 1) Head-to-Head: Bobcats 4-5 L2, BlueCaps 8-1 W6, Merchants 6-3 W4; 2) Run Differential: +29 (144 RF, 115 RA); 3) Non-Derby Record: 15-9
Description: The league-leading Sloths went 2-1 this week in KCL regular season play, bringing them to 18-9 on the season. After clinching the first seed in the playoffs, the Sloths did not slow down this week. They are looking as sharp as ever on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Sloths were led by Pacella, who posted a 1.167 OPS, and Peyton Dillingham who had a .444 batting average. Noah Campbell also contributed with a ridiculous .600 on-base percentage. When it came to pitching, the team ERA was 4.00 on the week. Keegan Gagliardo and Austin Baker shined this week as they both went 4 innings, allowed 2 or fewer runs, and struck out 5 or more batters. Joey Wilmoth has been on fire as well, not allowing a single run to score since June 17th. In this stretch, he has gone 9.1 innings, allowed four hits, and struck out 11 batters. Next week, the Sloths take on the BlueCaps and the Bobcats before the first round of the KCL playoffs starts on July 15th.
Playoff Preview: The Ground Sloths officially clinched the first seed in the playoffs with their dominant regular-season performance. Realistically, it is possible for the Sloths to match up with any of the other three teams in the first round of the playoffs. Regardless of who the Sloths play, they have a 1-2 punch on the pitching mound that is hard to beat. The two options for the Sloths would most likely be Gagliardo and Baker, but Righi and Behling have been just as dominant towards the end of the season. Then it gets even harder out of the bullpen, assuming Wilmoth is coming out of it. The potential bullpen duo of Wilmoth and Wombles is terrifying for the other team. Logan Wombles has allowed one earned run in 14.2 innings this year, so it isn’t hard to imagine him being used to shut down the opponent in the first game. The Merchants are currently in last place and continue to skid, so it is possible they end up being the fourth seed going into playoffs. The Sloths are 8-1 against the BlueCaps on the season, so it could be favorable if the BlueCaps fall to fourth place. Lastly, the Bobcats have caused the Sloths to struggle often, so it might not be the best matchup for the Sloths, but that is not to say it isn’t winnable.
The top two starting pitchers listed are projected to start playoff game 1 and playoff game 2 (if necessary) for the team.
If a player changed positions they are underlined. If a player’s positional depth changed, but they remained at that position their name is italicized. Additionally, all depth charts are designed with the intent that each non-pitcher is a starter or primary backup for at least one position. Players who have not played in the last three weeks and temporary signings are omitted.
|C||Luke Lawrence||Tyler Woltman|
|1B||Daniel Pacella||Davey Fitzpatrick|
|2B||Matt Armstrong||Noah Campbell||Cale Steinbaugh||Eli Moore|
|3B||Davey Fitzpatrick||Eli Moore||Cole Nelson||Noah Campbell|
|SS||Cale Steinbaugh||Cole Nelson||Noah Campbell||Eli Moore|
|LF||JP Gauthier||Evan Jones||Bryce Bishop||Quinn Willard|
|CF||Gavin Gonzalez||Chase Adams||Quinn Willard||Bryce Bishop|
|RF||Peyton Dillingham||Quinn Willard||Bryce Bishop||Evan Jones|
|DH||Bryce Bishop||Peyton Dillingham||Evan Jones||Davey Fitzpatrick|
|SP||Austin Baker||Keegan Gagliardo||Nate Righi||Evan Jones||Ryan Behling|
|RP||Ben Dickerson||Trey Krause||Joey Wilmoth||Chase Adams||Garrett Swingler|
|CL||Logan Wombles||Bryce Lohman||Richie Snider|
Below is a list of the odds of being in sole possession or holding a tie for first, second, third, and fourth place based on 20000 Season Simulations (Odds may be greater than 100%).
1st Place: 100% (Clinched first place)
2. Bobcats (13-14, 5 GB); Week: 2-1, L1
Schedule: 8-4 W vs Merchants, 9-3 W vs Ground Sloths, 2-8 L vs BlueCaps
Tiebreakers: 1) Head-to-Head: Ground Sloths 5-4 W2, BlueCaps 3-6 L4, Merchants 5-4 W2; 2) Run Differential: -2 (139 RF, 141 RA); 3) Non-Derby Record: 11-13
Description: The Bobcats went 2-1 this week, keeping hold of second place. They won their first game 8-4 against the Merchants. After battling back twice in the early innings of the game, the Bobcats settled down after taking the lead 5-4 in the 3rd, adding 3 insurance runs in the 4th and holding on to take the win. In the second game, the Cats won 9-3 against the Ground Sloths. After taking a 2-1 lead in the second inning, they never looked back, scoring additional runs in every inning but the 6th to secure a dominant win over the league leaders. Finally, in the Gryffindor v Slytherin matchup on Harry Potter night on Saturday, the Bobcats were dominated by Cy Young hopeful Griffin McClusky and lost to the BlueCaps 8-2. After going down 8-0, the Bobcats were able to score 2 in the 6th, but that was all for the comeback.
The Bobcats paced the KCL in scoring this week with 6.33 runs per game and were led by Alec McGinnis and Parker Mathieson. McGinnis went 6 for 12 out of the leadoff spot with a double, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, a walk, and an OPS of 1.222, solidifying his surge up the MVP rankings. Mathieson went 4 for 7 with a double, triple, 3 walks, 3 RBIs, and 4 Rs for an impressive OPS of 1.700. Lucas Ryan, Hayden Stork, and Bubba Mote all impressed in their one game each this week, going a combined 4 for 7 with 2 walks for a combined .666 OBP. Other main contributors for the Cats this week were Eli Hensley (3 RBIs, 1 R, .873 OPS), Shai Robinson (3 RBIs, .804 OPS), Jackson Blemler (2 RBIs, 2 Rs, .400 OBP), and Evan Hutson (1 RBI, 3 Rs).
On the mound, the Bobcats gave up 5 runs per game this week, third in the KCL. Notable performances go to relievers Chase Gockel, Christian Badorek, Drew Martin, and Nick Barlow. Drew Martin struck out 2 and only allowed 1 baserunner with no runs in 2 impressive innings, helping the Bobcats to hold their lead in the win against the Merchants. Chase Gockel struck out 3 batters without giving up a run in his 1 inning of work in that same win against the Merchants. Nick Barlow closed out the win against the Sloths, going 2 innings, striking out 2, and not giving up a run. Christian Badorek struck out 2 without giving up a run or even a baserunner in a great inning in the loss against the Caps. Logan Antrim (2 IP, 1 W, 4 K, 1 ER) and Mitchell Sampson (2 IP, 3 K, 0 H, 1 ER) both had solid outings as well. It is worth noting that Sampson was looking good on the mound but a rain delay forced him out of the game, meaning his performance could have been even better.
Playoff Preview: The Bobcats had a chance to lock up 2nd place, but could not capitalize when they lost to the BlueCaps on Saturday. The Cats still have a good chance to finish 2nd and can get it done with a win against the slumping Merchants on Wednesday if the BlueCaps lose to the Sloths. If both these results do not happen, it will end up going to the final day. The BlueCaps have the tiebreaker over the Bobcats as they lead the season series 6-3, so the Bobcats will want to make sure they hold their 1 game advantage over the Caps. It appears like the Bobcats will end up in the 2v3 playoff matchup unless they lose out, the Merchants win out, and the BlueCaps beat the Sloths but lose to the Merchants. If that happens, they will play the Ground Sloths in the first round, not as bad a matchup for the Cats as it is for other teams but still, one to avoid if possible. However, this is the most unlikely scenario, while the most likely is a matchup against the BlueCaps in the 2v3 slot. As mentioned before, the Caps have dominated the series 6-3 so far (6-1 in the last 7 games), so the Bobcats will be hoping the Merchants can sneak back into third before the season is over. However, the Bobcats will at least know they will not face Griffin McClusky, as the Cy Young candidate has been shut down for the season. Whoever they face, the Bobcats will know they will have the bats to beat them, boasting a lineup with MVP candidates Auggie Rasmussen, Alec McGinnis, Jackson Blemler, and Eli Hensley, MVP dark horses Parker Mathieson and Shai Robinson, and other contributors like Dan Mosele. The Bobcats’ pitching has been up and down this season, but they will throw some of their best guys and hope they perform as they have on the season as a whole. The Bobcats will look towards one or two of Mitchell Sampson, Brady Banker, and Will Jackson to start, while bringing in Logan Antrim, Thomas Harper, Nick Barlow, and Drew Martin if necessary, while trusting closer Ryne Willard in any save situations. The Bobcats have the firepower to beat any team in the KCL, and will certainly be hoping to bring the championship home, a realistic goal for this star studded team.
|C||Hayden Stork||Lucas Ryan||Colin Kalinowski||Bubba Mote|
|1B||Evan Hutson||Colin Kalinowski||Bubba Mote|
|2B||Alec McGinnis||Jackson Blemler||Eli Hensley||Dan Mosele|
|3B||Bubba Mote||Dan Mosele||Alec McGinnis||Shai Robinson|
|SS||Jackson Blemler||Shai Robinson||Alec McGinnis||Dan Mosele|
|LF||Parker Mathieson||Brady Alexander||James Duncan||Tyson Mickie|
|CF||Auggie Rasmussen||Parker Mathieson||Tyson Mickie|
|RF||Bryce Hazzard||James Duncan||Parker Mathieson||Brady Alexander|
|DH||Eli Hensley||Tyson Mickie||Dan Mosele||Bryce Hazzard|
|SP||Will Jackson||Mitchell Sampson||Brady Banker||Tommy White||Jack Bach|
|RP||Chase Gockel||Logan Antrim||Nick Barlow||Drew Martin||Christian Badorek|
|CL||Ryne Willard||Thomas Harper||Brendan Short||Seth Hotze|
2nd: 97.38%, 3rd: 2.62% (Clinched at least a tie for 2nd, but could still finish in last via tiebreakers)
3. BlueCaps (12-15, 6 GB); Week: 2-1, W2
Schedule: 1-4 L vs Ground Sloths, 3-1 W vs Merchants, 8-2 W vs Bobcats
Tiebreakers: 1) Head-to-Head: Ground Sloths 1-8 L6, Bobcats 6-3 W4, Merchants 5-4 W3; 2) Run Differential: -6 (129 RF, 135 RA); 3) Non-Derby Record: 11-12
Description: The BlueCaps enjoyed another winning week during this home stretch of KCL action, going 2-1 to pull themselves out of last place for the first time since the early weeks of the summer. The team’s pitching staff continues to be their strong suit, allowing a meager average of 1.8 runs per game over their last five contests. The starters, in particular, continue to impress with stellar performances from Shane Moore, Keegan Buksa, and Griffin McCluskey who put up a combined 12.2 scoreless innings across all three games last week. Meanwhile, the offense is still struggling to find its groove without a clear leader in the lineup. It’s been a total team effort for the Caps at the plate, manufacturing just enough run support to grab a lead before handing it off to their bullpen to lock the game down late. Make no mistake about it, the BlueCaps are built around their pitching and if they want to make any noise in the upcoming playoff tournament, it will be on the backs of those studs taking the mound.
Playoff Preview: With just two games of the regular season remaining, playoff seeding is still up for grabs for the BlueCaps, who could end up as high as the number two seed or as low as the fourth. The Ground Sloths have already clinched the top overall seed but the other three teams remain in a tight race as the season draws to a close, with only two games separating second place from dead last. Regardless of how the bracket shapes up, the BlueCaps suddenly appear much more poised to make a run at the KCL crown than they did just a few weeks ago. The Caps have been surging up the standings recently and in baseball, winning is all about getting hot at the right time. Even with their middling offense that relies on collecting a few timely hits rather than bashing its opponents into submission, the BlueCaps put themselves in a position to win just about any ballgame through excellent pitching and defense. All season, they boasted one of the most lethal 1-2 starting combos in the league with Griffin McCluskey and Julius Sanchez. Unfortunately, McCluskey has been shut down for the remainder of the season, a devastating loss for a team built around its pitching staff. However, there are still plenty of arms on the BlueCaps roster that is capable of shutting the opposition down and carrying this team to glory. Stalwarts like Ryan Borberg, Graham O’Gorman, and Kolby Pemberton have provided a steady presence all season while others such as Keegan Buksa and Shane Moore are coming off their best performances of the summer. Strategically, it would be in the team’s best interest to grab either the two or three seed to avoid having to play the top-seeded Ground Sloths in the first round of playoff action on Friday, July 15th. The Sloths have been the BlueCaps’ kryptonite all year, winning eight of the first nine contests between the two. With that said, the BlueCaps’ stellar cast of plus arms makes them a difficult matchup for any team in the playoffs.
|C||Dom Ferrari||Trevor Davis|
|1B||Patrick Mulcahey||Zach Carpita||Dom Ferrari|
|2B||Mitch Murphy||Gage Wolfe||Jayden Comia||Liam McGill|
|3B||Zach Carpita||Mike Maloney||Jayden Comia||Mitch Murphy|
|SS||Liam McGill||Jayden Comia||Gage Wolfe||Hunter Brewer|
|LF||Ben Karpowicz||Hunter Brewer||Ty Coartney||Mitch Murphy|
|CF||Joey Hagen||Sean Lynch||Hunter Brewer||Mitch Murphy|
|RF||Ty Coartney||Mitch Murphy||Hunter Brewer||Joey Hagen|
|DH||Jayden Comia||Patrick Mulcahey||Mike Maloney||Dom Ferrari|
|SP||Keegan Buksa||Kolby Pemberton||Griffin McCluskey||Julius Sanchez||Will O’Gorman|
|RP||Shane Moore||Mason Telford||Cameron Glick||Ryan Borberg||Kellen Hershberger|
|CL||Braden Roesch||Nick Sharp||Joey Hagen|
2nd: 20.17% , 3rd: 63.58% , 4th: 16.26%
4. Merchants (11-16, 7 GB); Week: 0-3, L8
Schedule: 4-8 L vs Bobcats, 1-3 L vs BlueCaps, 2-8 L vs Ground Sloths
Tiebreakers: 1) Head-to-Head: Ground Sloths 3-6 L4, Bobcats 4-5 L2, BlueCaps 4-5 L3; 2) Run Differential: -21 (128 RF, 149 RA); 3) Non-Derby Record: 10-13
Description: The woes keep coming for the Merchants after going 0-3 this week and continuing their 8-game losing streak. The biggest issue for the preseason leaders is their general lack of production from the lineup. As a squad, they batted a measly .205 and had only two extra-base hits and a total of seven runs. Camden Porter was their best hitter this weekend, posting 3 H and 1 XBH with 2 RBIs. With those numbers, you would have to have an elite pitching corps to even be in contention, and sadly, it just isn’t in the numbers for them. Addison Fletcher had a solid outing but still was credited with the loss, going 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R (to which none of those were earned), but also punching out 4. Nick Hainline had a decent outing as well, going 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, and punching out 8 but dealing 3 free passes. Looking forward to their next games, it doesn’t get any easier. Going against the Bobcats who are looking to hold their 2nd place position and the BlueCaps who will realistically retain their ace arms, the Merchants have to go 2-0 to attempt to be in the 3rd place spot.
Playoff Preview: While it is still anyone’s race for 2nd place, the only way for the Merchants to work themselves out of last place and into 2nd is for them to sweep these next two games and the Bobcats to lose their next two games. With games against the BlueCaps and Bobcats, sweeping could get half the battle out of the way, with the other half needing to come from the Ground Sloths sitting down the Caps and Cats. Going 0-8 in their last eight games has everyone expecting the Merchants to be going against the Sloths in the first round, which would be the shortest of straws to draw, especially being 3-6 in their 9 meetings, but only 1-5 in the last 6. While miracles do happen and nothing can be assumed, the odds are heavily shifted against them. Their best chance of survival will come from ace behavior from Fletcher and Nathan Garard to return to his ways of putting batters down in a historic fashion as well as the bats getting hot again. Can the Merchants find their swagger and return to their beginning of the season form, or will they regress further into their current ways and finish the season early? Only time will tell.
|C||Karter Hostetler||Demetrius Schupp||Logan Van Heuklon|
|1B||Anthony Martinez||Logan Van Heuklon||Karter Hostetler||Chris LeCrone|
|2B||Camden Porter||Beau Durbin||Chris LeCrone|
|3B||Chris LeCrone||Jack Kuethe||Anthony Martinez||Logan Van Heuklon|
|SS||Derek Botaletto||Camden Porter||Beau Durbin|
|LF||Jack Shields||Nathan Garard||Anthony Martinez||Demetrius Schupp|
|CF||Zach Otten||Jack Shields||Jack Kuethe||Nathan Garard|
|RF||Jack Kuethe||Travis Lutz||Nathan Garard||Zach Otten|
|DH||Logan Van Heuklon||Karter Hostetler||Travis Lutz||Nathan Garard|
|SP||Cade Sharp||Addison Fletcher||Nathan Garard||Nick Hainline||Luke Markunas|
|RP||Kaiden Rixner||Parker Brodine||Ryan Bredeson||Jesse Hake||Wes Hunt|
|CL||Logan Van Heuklon||Evan McAfee|
2nd: 10.13% , 3rd: 30.48% , 4th: 59.39%
Hitter of the Week: Bobcats #4 Parker Mathieson, OF/2B/3B (St. Thomas R-Sophomore) – 4/7, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, .571/.700/1.700
Parker Mathieson had a great week today for the Bobcats, helping them go 2-1 and putting them in a good spot to clinch 2nd place. His week started off with a performance in the win against the Merchants for which he was named player of the game. Mathieson went 2 for 3 with a double and a triple, as well as 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored. He followed it up with a 2 for 3 night with a walk against the Ground Sloths, scoring 1 run in the process. Finally, he drew 2 walks in the loss against the BlueCaps, scoring a run in that game as well. Mathieson led the league in SLG (1.000) and OPS (1.700) this week. Mathieson was also tied for the league lead in RBIs (3), Rs (4), BBs (3), 3Bs (1), extra-base hits (2), and contact rate (1.000) this week. Mathieson was not only good but also consistent, as he got on base at least 2 times and scored at least once in every game this week. Mathieson will look to continue where he left off this week in the postseason as he will be an important piece in the lineup for the Bobcats. This impressive week, in addition to a solid season, may see Mathieson get some points on the MVP ballot, and has put his name on the list of dark horse candidates to possibly win the MVP.
Pitcher of the Week: BlueCaps #11 Keegan Buksa, RHP (Heartland CC Freshman) – 4.2 IP, W, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Keegan Buksa put together his best outing of the season against a struggling Merchants squad on Friday in a game that saw the ‘Caps finally crawl out of the last place hole they had been digging in for much of the summer. The right-hander dominated the Merchants lineup from the onset, racking up a season-high 9 strikeouts over 4.2 scoreless innings while only giving up 1 hit and 1 walk all night. Buksa’s impressive performance was only elevated by the fact that the Merchants pitching staff, led by starter Nick Hainline, put on its own quality show, yielding just 2 earned runs while striking out 10 in a tightly contested 3-1 BlueCaps win. With the playoffs right around the corner and a season-defining experience fresh in the memory bank, Buksa has a golden opportunity to build off of this performance and help lead his team to KCL glory this coming weekend.
Last Week’s Predicted Game of the Week: BlueCaps 8 Bobcats 2, Saturday, July 9 Game 1
Similar to the books, Gyrfindor and the BlueCaps came out victorious over Slytherin and the Bobcats on Harry Potter Night, dominating the game from start to finish on both sides of the ball, leading to a final score of 8-2. Back-to-back bases-loaded walks got the ‘Caps out to an early lead in the first inning they would never surrender. In the fifth, with a runner on third and one out, the ‘Cats chose to intentionally walk the power-hitting Karpowicz to avoid a blast and set up the double play. However, three runs were scored in the next three plays behind a Mulcahey single, Hagen double, and Coartney sacrifice to extend the lead to 5-0. The remainder of the runs in the game were scored in the sixth when Zach Carpita hit a three-run homer and Shai Robinson a two-run double to make it 8-2. Griffin McCluskey started the game going five innings, surrendering two hits, no runs, seven punchouts, and four free passes. The best relievers of the game were Borberg for the BlueCaps (1.0 IP, 9 pitches, 0 ER) and Christian Badorek (1.0 IP, 0 ER, 2K). This was the BlueCaps’ sixth win over the Bobcats this season and appears to be the team they match up best against in the KCL, which bodes well for them, as the current standings have BlueCaps @ Bobcats as a first-round matchup.
Actual Game of the Week: BlueCaps 3 Merchants 1, Friday, July 8 Game 2
KCL fans were treated to a good old-fashioned pitchers duel last week when the BlueCaps squared off against the Merchants on July 8th. The starters for both teams, Nick Hainline for the Merchants and Keegan Buksa, both went 4.2 innings. Buksa struck out 9 batters and allowed only a single hit, earning him the nod for Pitcher of the Week. Despite getting the loss, Nick Hainline only allowed 5 hits and struck out an impressive 8 batters. Both pitchers kept the hitters cold throughout the night, as the Merchants were only able to score one run on one hit and a few walks. For the Bluecaps, Ben Karpowicz led the way with a double and two RBIs. Mitch Murphy had a two-hit game and gave the Bluecaps another RBI, giving the BlueCaps a total of three runs. The Merchants, on the other hand, only mounted one hit all night, which was a double for Anthony Martinez, who eventually scored on walks. Overall, it was a much different game than the typical game-of-the-week slugfests, but both teams’ ability to shut down each other’s offenses was more than deserving of Game of the Week honors.
Next Week’s Game of the Week: BlueCaps at Merchants, Thursday, July 14, 7:30 PM (KCL Regular Season Finale)
After fifty-seven games of KCL 2022 baseball, the BlueCaps and the Merchants will take the field in the fifty-eighth and final regular-season game of the season. This matchup is likely to have huge playoff implications since as it currently stands, the Bobcats, Merchants, and BlueCaps can still all finish in second, third, or fourth place respectively. The BlueCaps’ three-game winning streak over the Merchants (5-4 in nine games played) combined with the Merchants losing eight in a row overall suggests that this matchup heavily favors the BlueCaps. However, with the talent on the roster, the preseason favorite is due for a win, which can hopefully be jump-started by the return of Derek Botaletto and Travis Lutz to the lineup. Meanwhile, the BlueCaps needed to sign a couple of temporary players, just to get them through the week. No matter what happens, when the last out of this game is recorded, the KCL 2022 playoff seed will officially be set, and the league will be only two games away from the Game of the Year: The 2022 Kernels Collegiate League Championship.
- fWAR for the KCL by Robert Reyes (https://cornbeltersbaseball.com/fwar-kcl/)
- What Creates Distance by Jacob Hallowell (https://cornbeltersbaseball.com/what-factors-into-distance/)