The eerie connections of Jose Fernandez, Yordano Ventura to Hickory, Dyersville

Coming off a 12-6 season with a 2.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, as well as Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, Jose Fernandez was a hot candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the I-75 League’s 2014 draft. Mike Wilson wanted Jose Fernandez to anchor his rebuilding Hickory franchise’s pitching staff, but he feared Fernandez wouldn’t last until his fourth overall pick.

Destin had that top pick, and Wilson dangled third baseman Evan Longoria, as well as picks No. 4 and 204, and Destin manager Mark Gergel agreed to surrender the overall No. 1 pick, plus No. 40 and No. 152.

RIP, Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura

RIP, Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura

But Wilson wasn’t done with scooping up young fireballers; with the 54th pick overall that year, he also drafted Yordano Ventura, who in only 15 innings in 2013 had dropped jaws with a fastball with wicked movement that was hitting 100 mph.

Hernandez’s injury struggles, as well as some unexpectedly poor performances from other expected rebuilding blocks like Wil Myers (taken No. 3 overall by Hickory in 2014), outfielder Marcell Ozuna (taken No. 40 overall by Hickory in 2014) and outfielder Gregory Polanco (No. 3 overall in 2015) stalled Hickory’s rebuilding effort, and Wilson bowed out of the league following the 2015 season.

With two other clubs dropping out of the league and three new clubs joining for 2016, both Fernandez and Ventura were exposed in the dispersal draft, and Dyersville manager Ryan Renbarger, after considering his options, decided on a long-term strategy, opting for youth in his selections and counting on a down-the-road payoff. After selecting A.J. Pollock and Troy Tulowitzki with his first two picks, Renbarger followed that up with two young arms that he hoped would be the rotation foundation for the next decade: Fernandez with his third pick, Ventura with his fourth.

Fernandez, as you no doubt are aware, was killed in a boating accident in Miami Sept. 25 at age 24. And on Sunday, Ventura, just 25, was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

While the loss of a player to a Strat team can’t compare to the emotions the Marlins felt over Fernandez or the Kansas City Royals over Ventura, Strat managers still build up a connection to their stars, rooting for them in real life so they’ll do well on their Strat teams.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Superior caps spectacular surge with record-tying sixth world championship!

Displaying a finishing kick that would make Usain Bolt proud, the Superior Titans and Manager Mike Renbarger completed their late-summer and autumn dominance of the league with their franchise record-tying sixth world championship, fending off the Springfield Isotopes in six games to walk off with top honors as we concluded the 37th season of play in the I-75 league.

Walk off they did, as catcher A.J. Ellis broke a 2-2 tie with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Springfield ace Clayton Kershaw by nailing a ballpark homer chance on just 1-4 odds, shooting a 2.

A 3-9 ballpark HR roll off Clayton Kershaw, featuring a '2' roll on 1-4 chances, provided the walkoff winning margin.

A 3-9 ballpark HR roll off Clayton Kershaw, featuring a ‘2’ roll on 1-4 chances, provided the walkoff winning margin.

The victory gave Superior its third straight win in the series, as it had to battle back from a 2-1 deficit, much as it had to shake some early-season doldrums when it failed to deliver on some pretty high preseason expectations. Despite a superstar-laden lineup that included reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, plus Miguel Cabrera and Anthony Rizzo, Superior was plodding along with a good-but-not-great 56 wins after 100 games, which at the time landed the Titans in the middle of the competitive Westbound Division, five games off the pace set by John Renbarger’s Boulder Tree Huggers.

Then the Titans caught fire, reeling off 17 wins in August and 14 in September to climb into a first-place tie, and end up winning the division by a seven-game margin following a 14-win October. Superior’s 101 regular-season wins earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

A six-game victory over those Tree Huggers in the semifinals lifted Superior into the finals against Dave LaMont’s Isotopes, who were vying for their first World Championship in their 19th year in the league. Continue reading

Springfield, Boulder advance to second round

The Springfield Isotopes and Boulder Tree Huggers have advanced to the league semifinals, ousting the South Grand Prairie Warriors and Destin Beach Bums, respectively.

No. 3 Springfield required six games in order to move on, while No. 4 Boulder recorded four straight wins after dropping a 14-inning opening game.

Next up: Springfield gets a rematch with No. 2 New New York, which earned a first-round bye with a Game 161 victory over Springfield; while Boulder challenges No. 1 seed Superior in a son-father matchup of John and Mike Renbarger.

Springfield advanced in one of the most exciting ways possible — a walkoff victory in the bottom of the ninth in front of the home fans, on back-to-back solo homers. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Chris Davis and Stephen Vogt went deep consecutively to push the Isotopes into the next round. Springfield, managed by Dave LaMont, held a 6-4 edge over the Hypnotoads during the regular season, but New New York and rookie manager Jason Renbarger did win the single-game playoff that broke the tie for which team earned the first-round bye.

Boulder never trailed in Games 2-5 as Mike Trout went on a tear, eliminating the Beach Bums after manager Mark Gergel’s first playoff appearance.

West Division rivals Boulder and Superior hooked up 15 times during the regular season, with Superior holding a commanding 11-4 edge, including 4-1 dominations in both August and October. Based on managerial experience, Vegas oddsmakers like both the Titans and Isotopes to advance to the I-75 League’s 37th World Series.

Renbargers monopolize 2016 playoff berths

Chew on this: Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend a particular sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum, but only three out of five Renbargers in the I-75 League made the playoffs this year.

tridentOnly?

Compare that to the performance of the non-Renbargers in the league. There’s 10 non-Renbargers in the league, and only three of them (30%) made the playoffs. Ray would be proud.

The postseason qualifiers are set, though the playoff pairings are not, as October play brings an end to the 37th regular season of play in the I-75 League. And when the dust settled, here’s what we were left with:

Mike Renbarger’s Superior Titans, who by most accounts underperformed for the first five months of the season before going 45-15 over the final three months, captured the Westbound Division crown, league’s best record (101-59) and top seed in the playoffs.

Jason Renbarger’s New New York Hypnotoads, in their inaugural season no less, posted the best intradivision record of any team in the league (43-17) to reign supreme in the Southbound Division at 94-66. Thirty-five of those wins came against Savannah, West Atlanta and Dyersville.

Continue reading

With 20 to go, what we know and what we don’t

With one month to play, here’s what we know and what we don’t about the I-75 League’s 37th season and the race for the postseason:

  • Superior has completed a season-long charge in the West and pulled into a tie with Boulder, setting up a mano-a-mano intradivisional photo finish. Both teams are tied for the league’s best record; whichever doesn’t win the division has a lock on one of the wild-card berths.
DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BTH/SUP 87 53 .621
SPRINGFIELD 83 57 .593
NEW NEW YORK 80 60 .571
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
BTH/SUP 87 53 .621 +11
DESTIN 77 63 .550 +1
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 76 64 .543
SATELLITE BEACH 75 65 .536 1
APPLEGATE 74 66 .529 2
  • Springfield is a lock to win the North, coasting into the final month with a 14-game lead.
  • New New York and rookie manager Jason Renbarger have a four-game lead to sweat out in the final month over South Grand Prairie.
  • Three games separate four teams in the battle royale for the final two playoff spots: Destin, which lost one game due to forfeit for Ryan Braun overuse, has 77 wins; South Grand Prairie 76, Satellite Beach 75 and Applegate 74.

An interesting twist to the playoff matchups would leave an easier path for a sixth seed (which would face the third seed, likely to be New New York or South Grand Prairie with a comparable record) than the fifth seed, which would face the loser of the West Division clash between Boulder and Superior.

West could claim 4 of 6 playoff spots

With 40 games to go, the very real possibility exists that all three wild-card playoff teams could come from the West Division.

Superior, on the heels of a 17-win month, has vaulted to the top of the wild-card pack and sliced two wins off of Boulder’s lead in the division. It looked like Superior might even knock more off that lead, but Boulder’s month-closing sweep of New New York allowed it to maintain a moderately comfortable lead.

Satellite Beach holds down the second wild-card spot, winning 13 games in August, and then comes a three-way tie for the third and final spot: Destin and Applegate from the West, and South Grand Prairie from the South — all at 65-55.

Springfield has opened up a comfortable nine-game lead in the North Division, and New New York continues to hang on to a precarious three-game lead over the Warriors. The Hypnotoads have several key players running on fumes — relief pitchers Felipe Rivero and Joaquin Benoit have 3 and 7 innings left respectively; slugger Chris Colabello is down to 25 ABs.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 76 44 .633
NEW NEW YORK 68 52 .567
SPRINGFIELD 68 52 .567
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 73 47 .608 +8
SATELLITE BEACH 69 51 .575 +4
DESTIN 65 55 .542
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 65 55 .542
APPLEGATE 65 55 .542

Only one of the teams tied for the third playoff spot will make the playoffs. Current head-to-head records:

Applegate-Destin are 5-5 with a series to play in October.
Applegate-South Grand Prairie are 5-5.
Destin leads South Grand Prairie 3-2 with a series to play in September.

Five teams bunched within two games of three wild-card spots with 60 games to play

Start spreading the news. 

They’re leaving today.

They want to be a part of it.

New, New York, New New York. 

They want to wake up. In a pennant race. That never sleeps. 

And find they’re A No. 1. Top of the South. A No. 1. 

The expansion New New York Hypnotoads, on the strength of a league-best 14-6 July, have surged into first place in the South Division and are threatening to make the playoffs in their first year. At 58-42 overall, NNY has the league’s second-best record, thanks in part to an 18-7 record in its own division (5-0 vs. Dyersville, 4-1 vs. West Atlanta, 6-4 vs. South Grand Prairie and 3-2 vs. Savannah).

The Hypnotoads join Boulder and Springfield as the division leaders at the 100-game mark, but just behind them in the wild-card race are five teams bunched just two games apart. With the trade deadline looming, any deals made have the chance to impact that race even more than in a typical year. Here’s the wild-card standings with 60 games to go:

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 61 39 .610
NEW NEW YORK 58 42 .580
SPRINGFIELD 57 43 .570
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
DESTIN 56 44 .560
SUPERIOR 56 44 .560
SATELLITE BEACH 56 44 .560
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 55 45 .550 1
APPLEGATE 54 46 .540 2
MARGARITAVILLE 51 49 .510 5
SAVANNAH 47 53 .450 9
BUSHWOOD 47 53 .470 9