Top KCL and CornBelters Performances of the Summer
Author: Jeffrey Brover, Sport Management and Statistics at Rice University
Throughout the summer, the Kernels Collegiate League (KCL) played a total of 61 games at the Corn Crib, while the Cornbelters will play a 59-game regular season slate (31 home, 28 away), not counting up to five potential additional playoff games. This means a total of 92 games will be played at the Corn Crib this summer. At each KCL Game and CornBelters Home Game, a hitter and pitcher of the game are named, with KCL nominations usually going to players on the winning team, while CornBelters ones always go to ‘Belters, rather than the road team. Compiling a spreadsheet of each player and pitcher named thus far (see Appendix for full spreadsheet), as well as adding in ones for away games, can help narrow down the list of the potential top ten performances of the summer from 111 options so far. Although fantasy points were used as a baseline for a general idea of some of the best performances, the process of choosing them was holistic, looking at overall statistics, clutchness, storylines, advanced statistics, and more. Additionally, they are also undoubtedly subjective with some degree of bias, making this more of a fun exercise, rather than an indisputable ranking. Now without further ado, the top 10 Hitter and Pitcher Performances of the Summer (through July 28).
Top 10 Hitter Performances
Honorable Mentions (Chronological Order)
- Bobcat Auggie Rasmussen Makes it 14 RBIs in 3 Days Tacking On 4 (6/5 at Ground Sloths, W 9-7): 3-3, 2B, R, 4 RBI, BB, 3 SB
- CornBelter Jeremy Figueroa Puts the Splash in Splash Day (6/21 vs. Springfield Lucky Horseshoes, W 10-1 F/7): 2-3, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI
- CornBelter Dom DiLello’s Walk-Off Walks Seals Extra Inning Win Capping Great Day (W 11-10, F/11): 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB
- Ground Sloth Peyton Dillingham Wins KCL Championship and Playoff MVP (7/16 vs. Bobcats, W 6-1 F/9): 1-3, 3B, R, 2 RBI, BB, K
- Welcome to the CornBelters Connor Olson (7/18 vs. Clinton Lumberkings, W 8-7): 4-5, R, 3 RBI, 2 SB
- CornBelter (and Former Ground Sloth) Peyton Dillingham Keeps Hot Streak Going (7/21 vs. Burlington Bees, W 14-9): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
10. Merchants’ Jack Shields Flirts With the Cycle On Opening Day (5/26 vs. Bobcats, W 7-4): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, K
On a rainy Thursday at the end of May, the 2022 Kernels Collegiate League season kicked off with the Bobcats and Merchants. Leading off in the second inning, Jack Shields instantly made an impact, clobbering a solo shot to right simultaneously scoring the first run and initiating the first Raining Tacos of the summer. Later in the bottom of the fifth, Shields broke the tie again, this time with a double to right center. Finally, in his last at-bat, he singled to center field, scoring one more and solidifying a solid case for Player of the Game. This was one of two Jack Shields’ Player of the Game with the other coming in the regular season finale, marking him as the hero for both tails of the season.
9. Xavier Watson Slugs Seven Bases on the Road (7/13 at Springfield Lucky Horseshoes, W 8-2): 2-3, 3B, HR, R
The highest-rated road performance on the list belongs to perennial nine-hole hitter and second baseman Xavier Watson, as the first CornBelter to total seven or more bases in a game this season. His first three bases came on an RBI triple in the sixth scoring Peyton Meredith and growing the lead to three. Two innings later he got the rest of them behind a two-run home run to left field that scored Meredith yet again. Although a .205 hitter during his time with the Belters, he had many strong games sprinkled with him, topped up with his best in Springfield.
8. CornBelter Dom DiLello’s Walk-Off Walks Seals Extra Inning Win Capping Great Day (W 11-10, F/11): 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB
Dominic DiLello played the first week in the KCL as a member of the Ground Sloths and after the KCL season ended found his way on the Belters. In an eleven-inning thriller against the Bees on Thursday night, Dominic DiLello reached base safely in six of his seven plate appearances, including a 1-out bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eleventh to win the game. DiLello started off early in the first with a single plus two-base error that immediately set him up to score. His next two times up his keen eye earned him a free pass before an RBI single in the fifth extended the Belters’ lead to 3. Next up came another RBI single, this time breaking the nine-all tie. His most important at-bat came in the bottom of the eleventh when he sent CornBelters fans home happy by walking home the winning run.
7. Welcome to the CornBelters Peyton Dillingham (7/17 at Alton River Dragons, W 6-5): 5-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
Although Olson had a very great debut for the Belters, the best hitting debut on the team belongs to Peyton Dillingham. One day after winning the KCL Championship, Dillingham traveled with the team to Alton, IL starting at first base and batting fifth. He then proceeded to tie the most total bases by a CornBelter on the season, a record he would later break, as well as record the first five-hit game of the season for the CornBelters. Dillingham either crossed the plate or batted a run in during all four innings they scored in the game. In the top of the tenth with two outs and a runner on second, Dillingham hit the game-winning double to right center, securing a victory for the CornBelters and serving as a spark plug for their longest win streak of the season. While certainly an impressive feat overall, it is not even a top two Dillingham performance on the season.
6. Dan Mosele Leads Bobcats to Slot in KCL Championship Game (7/15 vs. Merchants, W 9-0): 2-3, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB, ROE
Dan Mosele was Player of the Game only once during the regular season on 6/22 with the majority of them going to Auggie Rasmussen (6), followed by Alec McGinnis (3). However, the playoffs were a different story as Mosele elevated to another level in the Bobcats’ victory over the Merchants in the KCL Semifinals as the cleanup hitter. Mosele broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the first with an RBI double to left scoring Eli Hensley. The Bobcats never looked back, winning the game 9-0 behind additional support from Mosele. In the third, Mosele reached on an error and behind solid baserunning scored, making it 5-0. In the next inning, he singled to SS, scoring two on the play, before stealing third and home on the same play to extend the lead to nine and give the Bobcats a chance at glory. Fittingly he recorded the last out of the game and was the only Bobcat with a multi-hit game in the championship.
5. Peyton Dillingham’s Grand Slam Sends Ground Sloths to KCL Championship (7/15 vs. Merchants, W 9-0): 1-2, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 1 BB, ROE
As a player-coach and three-time KCL participant, Peyton Dillingham was a leader for the Ground Sloths throughout the two months of the KCL. With one swing of the bat, Peyton Dillingham continued that pattern and reminded the rest of the KCL that they were the team to beat. In the bottom of the first tied at 0, after three of the first four batters reached safely, Dillingham stepped into the batter’s box. When he left the batter’s box, he was trotting towards first, as he had just hit a towering grand slam to right field to put the Sloths up 4-0 over the Merchants. This was Dillingham’s fourth home run of the year in the KCL, the only player in the whole league to reach that mark, which is unsurprising, as he hit and won in all three Sloths’ derby tiebreakers. Although his most impressive KCL performance, it is still not quite yet his best performance at the Corn Crib of the year.
4. Chase Adams’ Grand Slam Walks It Off For the Ground Sloths (6/24 vs. BlueCaps, W 8-4): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, HBP
Dillingham was not the only Ground Sloth this year to hit a grand slam. The Sloths entered the bottom of the seventh down 4-2 to the BlueCaps. Of the first four batters, two walked and two got out, where with one swing of the bat the game could end with either team adding to their win column. The ‘Caps proceeded to surrender a single, hit by pitch, and a walk, loading the bases and tying the game with Adams up to bat. Chase Adams is not a power hitter and does not need to be in this situation, as a mere walk wins the game. Entering the game he had 22 plate appearances and one base hit. Ball 1. Ball 2. It looks like he might walk the run home. Foul Ball. Foul Ball. Never mind, home run derby is heading their way. The 2-2 pitch was swung at and hit deep to right field, but it looked playable for the fielder…and then it just kept carrying and carrying, all the way beyond the fence for a walk-off grand slam to close the game out in style.
3. Bobcats’ Auggie Rasmussen Makes It Back-to-Back 5 RBI Days (6/3 vs. Merchants, L 8-12): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, 2 ROE, 4/4 QAB
It may have been Awful Night at the Crib, but Rasmussen was anything but. All fourteen other players of the game on this list belong to a player on the winning team, except for Auggie’s June 3rd game, since it is not easy to get 5 RBIs, especially for the second night in a row. Coming off of the best performance a young KCL season had seen thus far (see Number 2 Below), expectations were high for Auggie entering the game. Although his team may not have won, it was certainly not from a lack of support on Rasmussen’s side. Rasmussen had four hard-hit balls on the day and although two were ruled as errors, all four were quality at-bats and allowed him to reach the base paths safely. In the first inning, he picked up his first RBI via a hard hit error botched by the shortstop that would have scored the runner anyways. His next time up in the third, he caused the third baseman to make a similar mistake, this time allowing two runners to score, giving Auggie his second/third RBI. Tired of only reaching on errors, he made sure no fielder could possibly be involved on the next play, mashing one over the fence on a 1-1 count. Refusing to quit in Auggie’s final at-bat of the game with 2 outs in the bottom of the seventh and one on, he doubled to right field to score one more and collect his fifth RBI. A valiant effort did not go unnoticed, even if it was not enough for the victory.
2. Bobcats’ Auggie Rasmussen First With 5-RBI Day, Then Wins Tiebreaking Derby (6/2 vs. Bobcats, W 10-9): 2-4, HR, R, 5 RBI, K, SB
The best single game of baseball in the KCL was the first of six earned by the KCL 2022 MVP Auggie Rasmussen. The first two batters of the game reached safely, setting the stage for Auggie’s beautiful day to begin. After fouling off the first pitch, he smoked the first of his three league-leading home runs of the year deep to right center field to make it 3-0 Cats. In the fourth inning, two more runs crossed the plate thanks to him behind a clutch two-out RBI single, providing a comfortable 7-0 lead for the Bobcats. This could have been the end of the story for Auggie’s day, which admittedly may have placed this slightly lower on this list, but behind a six-run fourth the BlueCaps eventually came all the way back to tie it at nine a piece and send the game to extras. Luckily for the Bobcats, deciding who to send out was easy. Auggie went two for ten in the derby, doubling the BlueCaps’ one, giving the Bobcats win number two on the year, and beginning to start the engine of the Rasmussen MVP train.
1. Peyton Dillingham Crushes CornBelter Season Single-Game Records (7/20 vs. Lafayette Aviators, W 11-10): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI, SAC
There have only been four games this entire season where a CornBelter had at least seven total bases. Three of these were during Peyton Dillingham’s first week with the team and none of them were as impressive as his July 20th game vs. the Aviators, the best offensive single-game performance of the season. Dillingham got his stat sheet rolling early with a two-run single in the first, helping the Belters jump up to an early 3-run lead. In the third inning, Dillingham made a team-first decision, going with a sacrifice bunt to move the runner over to second base. His next time up with two-on nobody out down two, Dillingham hit one over the left field wall, scoring three runs for the team, breaking the single-game for most RBIs in a game(5), and giving the Belters back the lead. The following inning, with two outs and nobody out, he stepped into the box yet again, crushing yet another home run to right center for a total of 6 RBIs, 2 HRs, and 9 total bases, all of which are season highs for any Belter or KCL player. Dillingham has been an outstanding addition to the team and this game along with his entire week was enough to earn him Player of the Week Honors in the Prospect League, a very well-deserving honor, considering his OPS was 2.247.
Top 10 Pitcher Performances
Honorable Mentions (Chronological Order)
- Two-Way Travis Lutz Wins Both Pitcher and Hitter of the Game (5/28 vs. Ground Sloths, W 6-5): 4 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 0 BB
- BlueCaps’ Jake Swartz Makes His Lone KCL Start A Good One (6/9 at Bobcats, W 4-1): 5 IP, W, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K, 0 BB
- Cade Sharp Goes Six Scoreless En Route To Merchants Win (6/18 vs. Ground Sloths, W 4-2): 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 3 BB
- Welcome to the CornBelters Michael Sclafani (6/26 at Springfield Lucky Horseshoes, W 10-3): 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 0 BB
- Keegan Buksa Earns Playoff Nod for BlueCaps (7/8 vs. Merchants, W 3-1): 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 9 K, 1 BB
10. Bode Gebbink Lowers League-Leading ERA for CornBelters On Road (7/13 at Springfield Lucky Horseshoes, W 8-2): 6.1 IP, W, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 2 HBP
The same day Watson hit his 3B and HR, Bode Gebbink continued putting in work towards lowering his Prospect League-leading ERA of 2.17 as of July 28, the only pitcher with a qualified ERA under 3.00. He serves as a hybrid pitcher with eight relief appearances and seven starts, always filling into whatever role the Belters need. His most impressive game of the season came on the road at Springfield on July 13 when he hurled 6.1 scoreless innings of baseball. After giving the first two batters free passes, he set the tone for the rest of his game by striking out the next three batters to close out the first. He ended the night after reaching the Prospect League pitch limit with 7 K compared to only two hits and three walks, while only allowing one runner to reach third.
9. Spencer Smith Clutches Up in Extra For Huge Win Over Belters’ Rival (7/25 at Burlington Bees, W 10/9 F/12): 4.2 IP, W, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 HBP
The Bees and CornBelters entered this game neck and neck in the standings looking to lock down the second-half crown in the Great River Division. Smith entered the game in a tough situation in the bottom of the eighth, up one with the bases loaded and only one out. After striking out the first batter, he surrendered a single that with the help of an error scored all three runners, putting the Bees on top by two, before eventually ending the inning, putting the fate of the game in the hands of the hitters. Behind a two-run single by Meredith in the top of the ninth, the Belters tied it and gave the ball back to Spencer Smith, who proceeded to strike out the side to send it to extras. The game became a pitcher’s duel with Smith only giving up one hit-by-pitch in the next two innings, yet the game remained tied at nine apiece heading to the twelfth. Finally, the Belters’ bats broke through in the top of the inning, while Smith shut them down in the bottom, earning them a well-deserved intra-division victory.
8. Luke Olson Goes Deep in Longest Belter Start of Year (6/22 at Lafayette Aviators, L 5-6, F/11): 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, HBP
During his time on the CornBelters, Luke Olson was their definitive ace posting a 3.28 ERA with 24 K in 24.2 IP across four starts with the team. Olson went out with a bang, going the longest any CornBelters pitcher has gone this season (7.2 IP) in his final start with the team. This is especially impressive considering the hard pitch cap of the Prospect League, where pitchers cannot begin a new plate appearance if they have already thrown 95 or more pitches. His command on the mound kept them in the game on the road as he left after 7.2 IP tied at three behind 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, and 3 K. Although the bullpen could not finish it off this particular night, Olson was still able to leave a memorable impression in his Cornbelter finale.
7. Cy Young Austin Baker Gets It Done For Ground Sloths in KCL Championship (7/16 vs. Bobcats, W 6-1 F/9): 5.1 IP, W, 3 H, 1 ER, 8 K, 5 BB, 1 WP
Before the game, Austin Baker was on the field for a pregame ceremony with his coach Jonathan Brandt and opponent Auggie Rasmussen accepting his KCL 2022 Cy Young Award for his phenomenal regular season. In 25.1 IP across 6 starts, Baker went 5-1 with 30 H, 10 ER, 12 BB, and 38 K, good for a 3.55 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. His stellar work for the regular season champions earned him the nod in the championship game vs. the top offensive team in the league, the Bobcats. Baker pitched his first five innings with very little trouble outside of escaping a two-out bases-loaded jam in the second, as well as runners on third and second 2 outs in the fourth. After starting the fifth with a walk, strikeout, then walk, Baker exited the game with 100 pitches thrown and a commanding 6-0 Sloths. With a solid bullpen behind him, it was enough to hoist the Mike Brown Memorial 2022 KCL Champion Trophy at the end of the night and earn him the final KCL Pitcher of the Game nod.
6. Jake Armstrong Goes the Distance, Notching a Complete Game in Game 1 vs. Catfish (7/27 vs. Cape Catfish, W 5/3 F/7): 7 IP, W, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
While Olson was the first-half ace, Armstrong has supplanted himself as the second-half one, especially through his most recent start. In Game 1 of a Doubleheader vs. the Catfish, the teams’ only two matchups of the season, Armstrong went the distance, the only time a CornBelter has done so all season. Although accomplished in a seven-inning game, the feat still remains extremely impressive due to the hard cap of 95 pitches in the Prospect League, of which Armstrong only needed 89 (59 strikes). Armstrong surrendered two in the third, followed up by a solo shot to begin the fourth, but was lights out on both sides of that rough patch. Following the home run, only one batter reached safely behind a fielding error, but fortunately for Armstrong, he remained stranded at first. Armstrong looked better and better as the game progressed, almost as if he was aware of the pitch count and wanted to ensure he close out the game himself and yield the Belters their ninth consecutive win and his league-high fifth win.
5. Kyle Moore Gives Belters Their Best Start of the Season, Solidyfing Rout of Alton (7/10 vs. Alton River Dragons, W 8-1): 7.1 IP, W, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP
There have been a lot of great performances on the bump this summer for the Belters, but none were as great as Moore’s home start against the River Dragons on July 10. Moore only needed to face 26 batters to record 22 outs before reaching the 95-pitch pitch limit. Of the six batters to reach, five were on singles and one was on a hit-by-pitch, with two making outs on the base paths behind a pickoff and double play. Moore pitched a flawless first inning, retiring the first five he faced, and a flawless sixth and seventh, recording outs for the last seven he faced, ending his day on a strikeout. He averaged merely 3.6 pitches per batter faced and it was more than enough to lead them to victory against a tough River Dragons team.
4. Brady Banker Sends Bobcats to Championship Game Behind Five Strong (7/15 vs. Merchants, W 9-0): 5 IP, W, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 3 BB, 2 HBP
Despite not joining the league until June 15, Banker did enough in his 4 starts to mark himself as the Bobcats’ SP2 and pitch in the KCL Semifinal matchup. Entering the game, in 12.1 innings of regular season work he had a 2.91 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 1.40 FIP. He pitched well in the regular season, but saved his best and longest start for the playoffs, going five innings and leaving the games in the hands of a capable Nick Barlow up nine. Although a runner reached base safely in four of his five innings of work, only two of them reached third, and none of them crossed the plate.
3. Sloths’ Nate Righi Punches Out League-High Thirteen (6/15 vs. Merchants, W 4-2): 5 IP, W, 4 H, 0 ER, 13 K, 1 BB
Nate Righi was not messing around in his third KCL start of the season when he sent thirteen Merchants down on strikes. It was immediately clear that Righi was feeling it that night when it only took him twelve pitches to strike out the first three batters he faced in the first. Righi struck out the first five batters he faced, eight of his first ten, and had his first eight outs come via the punch out. Throughout all this, the only runner to make it past second base or score was the result of two separate Sloth fielding errors. When Righi stepped off the mound for the final time that game, appropriately closing out the fifth with a strikeout, he had sent 13 Merchants down swinging on 85 pitches, 69.4% of which were strikes. He was immediately rewarded by a four-run Sloth fifth inning, enough for a Righi and Sloth win. He was the only player in the entire KCL season to be named both the Player and Pitcher of the Game solely for pitching.
2. Nate Righi Earns Second Complete Game Shutout of the KCL Season, Sending Ground Sloths to Championship Game (7/15 vs. BlueCaps, W 9-0): 7 IP, W, 4 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 4 BB, 2 HBP
Exactly one month after his thirteen strikeout game, Nate Righi put on another magnificent performance, this time propelling the Sloths to the championship game. An impressive regular season state line of 18.1 IP, 2-2, 16 H, 8 ER, 10 BB, 29 K, 3.93 ERA, and 1.42 WHIP gave Coach Brandt enough confidence to save the Cy Young for the championship game and utilize Righi to advance there. Righi may not have had a single perfect inning, but it did not matter, as after 101 pitches, six strikeouts, four walks, and two hit-by-pitches, 21 BlueCap outs had been recorded, and the Sloths were set for a date with the Bobcats in the finals. It was one of only two seven-inning complete-game shutouts throughout the summer.
1. Will Jackson Dominates in First Caps-Cats Game of Season (5/28 vs. Bobcats, W 4-0): 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 2 BB
The best start of the entire summer came on the third day of KCL play when Will Jackson took the mound for a winless Bobcats team. Requiring only 82 pitches to complete the game, only three BlueCaps reached base via two walks and a single, with none of them making it past first base. Jackson retired the last fifteen batters he faced and only had three balls in play make it past the infield, two of which were weak fly balls, refusing to give the BlueCaps any hope of mounting a potential comeback. By allowing only one total base in the game, Jackson made it clear that he was set to become the Bobcats’ ace and go-to starter for the 2022 season. This start was nothing short of domination.
As of the writing of this article, there are still nine regular season games to go for the CornBelters, meaning there is still plenty of time for some magical performances to occur on both sides of the play. For a full list of all players of the game, both hitters and pitchers, please see the appendix section below. Thank you and Go CornBelters!
Hitters of the Game
Pitchers of the Game
How can my buddy Will Jackson have the #1 pitching performance of the year, but not be the MVP. Maybe next season…