Gopher Holes for July

The Gophers enjoyed their best month of the season in July, going 13-7 and winning all four series. The post-month celebration was muted, however, for two reasons. First, Bushwood surrendered first place in the rugged Southbound Division, as Satellite Beach posted a sparkling 16-4 July slate to move two games ahead of the Gophers. Second, the Gophers pulled off an unprecedented and frustrating trifecta, losing the final game of three July series in walk-off fashion

In a scheduling quirk, Bushwood played three road series in July: at West Atlanta, Boulder and Dyersville. The Gophers could do no wrong in the first four games against the Crush, winning them all by an overall score of 30-10. But West Atlanta rose from the mat in the ninth inning to take the finale in dramatic fashion, tying the scored at 5 with a one-out solo homer by Pete Alonso, and then winning it when Cavan Biggio followed a Carson Kelly walk with another homer. Co-closer Brandon Workman gave up both homers, and a bizarre trend was started.

The Gophers’ next series at Boulder ended in equally frustrating fashion. Leading up to the finale, the Gophers enjoyed lusty hitting and solid pitching to take 3 of 4 from the mighty Huggers with relative ease, outscoring Boulder 25-13. The finale was an epic battle that was was still tied 3-3 entering the bottom of the 12th. Workman was again on the mound and Jorge Soler jumped on a pitch for another walk-off, two-run blast.

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Gopher Holes for June

As provided by Dave Renbarger

After winning just three of their first 12 games of the month, the Gophers seemed to be falling out of the race with June play winding down.  But the boys from Bushwood did a dramatic about-face, ending the month with an eight-game win streak to climb into first place in the bunched-up Northbound standings.  Their 11-9 June slate left the Gophers at 45-35 at the halfway point, one game ahead of the Volcanoes, two up on the Brawlers and four ahead of the Bums.

First up in June were the Brawlers in a much-anticipated matchup of Northbound contenders.  Satellite Beach answered the challenge with a 3-2 series win, claiming the middle three games by a cumulative score of 20-3.  The Gophers, behind ace Justin Verlander, won the opener 7-1 and the finale 8-4.

A road trip to Savannah followed, but Steve Hart was not a gracious host as his Scorps won 4 of 5.  Only an 11-9 Bushwood triumph in Game 4 prevented a sweep.  Verlander made two strong starts again but came up on the short end of 3-1 and 4-3 decisions.

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Gopher Holes for May

The Gophers broke even in May, but the 10-10 slate was somewhat disappointing given the fact that the month began with a 4-1 road series victory over red-hot Superior.  Alas, that big victory was followed with identical 2-3 outcomes vs. Margaritaville, vs. SGP and at Destin.  When the dust settled, the Gophers were tied with the Volcanoes atop the Northbound Division with a 34-26 record after three months, one game ahead of Satellite Beach.

Ace Justin Verlander keyed the triumph over the Titans, notching victories in Games 1 and 5.  Yu Darvish bested Jose Berrios in Game 3, and reverse righty reliever Chase Anderson got his first start of the season in Game 4 and delivered a 6-2 victory.

Verlander opened the big series against Margaritaville with a 5-4 victory and Darvish followed with a 6-2 triumph in Game 3.  But the Gophers fell short in the last two games, losing an 11-inning heartbreaker in Game 4 and dropping a 6-3 decision in the finale behind struggling No. 5 starter Trevor Bauer.

Next up were the struggling Warriors, who arrived in Bushwood with a 9-31 record but managed to change their luck.  To be honest, the 2-3 outcome for the Gophers could easily have been 0-5.  Both of the Gophers’ victories came on walk-off homers.  Howie Kendrick connected off Raisel Iglsias to lead off the 13th inning of Game 3 to give Bushwood a 4-3 victory.  Iglesias was victimized again the very next game, when the Gophers erased a 7-5 deficit in the ninth inning to steal a victory.  Eric Sogard started the rally with a one-out solo homer to make it 7-6.  Buster Posey was hit by the next pitch and Yoan Moncada launched the next one over the fence, triggered a huge celebration at home plate.  Unfortunately, Bauer was up again for Game 5, and the Gophers suffered a 10-4 loss in the rubber game.

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Gopher Holes for April

The Gophers logged 12 more wins in April following a 12-8 March to reach the quarter pole of the season at 24-16, good for a first-place tie in the competitive Southbound Division.  Ace Justin Verlander displayed his Cy Young form all month, going 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in four April starts, recording 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings.  JV was particularly hard on the Treblemakers, logging 15 strikeouts in a 5-2 victory in Game 1 and then flirting with a no-hitter in a 14-3 laugher in Game 5.  Verlander lost the no-no when Javy Baez homered with two outs in the seventh inning.  In 1983, Don Sutton tossed the only no-hitter in the 41-year history of the Vlasic/Bushwood franchise.

Not to be outdone, No. 5 starter Spencer Turnbull actually posted a lower ERA than Verlander for April, going 1-1 with a 2.04 ERA over three starts. … Reliever Ryan Pressly was impressive in his first action of the season, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 13 high-leverage innings. … The debut of lefty long man Nick Ramirez, however, was less than scintillating:  12.86 ERA over 7 innings. … Likewise, No. 2 starter Yu Darvish had a rough month:  1-2 in four starts with an even 9.00 ERA (18 runs in 18 innings).  The hard thrower gave up eight homers in the month and is on pace to allow 60 for the year.

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Gopher Holes for March

As submitted by Dave Renbarger

Buster Posey’s three-year home run drought is over.

The Gophers’ veteran catcher, who last homered in October of 2018, finally connected again after 421 homerless at-bats.  Even better, it was a lucky shot (homer 1-2, flyout 3-20, split roll 2).  Best of all, it was a game-winner, a two-run blast in the fourth inning vs. Bismarck’s Mike Clevinger that broke a 4-4 tie in Bushwood’s 6-5 victory.

It was a decent month overall for Posey, who slumped miserably for the entire 2019 season, and a good start for the Gophers as well.  Posey, who hit a puny .188 with a .484 OPS last year, is currently sporting marks of .285 and .742 for 2020.  And the Gophers checked in at 12-8 for March, good for second place in the Northbound behind the front-running Brawlers.

Bushwood and Savannah opened their 41st season as I-75 rivals with a face-to-face series at Draft HQ, and the Scorps claimed a 3-2 series victory.  But the Gophers’ fortunes improved under the netplay format, going 3-2 vs. the Huggers, then 4-1 at Tatooine and then 3-2 at Bismarck to round out the month.

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Gopher Holes: Draft Recap

The proud owners of four of the first 29 picks in the draft, the Gophers were hoping to make a big haul in the 2020 I-75 Mail League draft and shore up several problem areas.  In the final analysis, it was mission accomplished.

Specifically, the Gophers had their own picks in the first and second rounds (No. 4 and No. 23) plus Boulder’s first two picks (No. 14 and No. 29), acquired in the Jacob deGrom blockbuster deal with the Huggers in December.  So the plan entering the draft was to snag a difference-making young slugger (such as Pete Alonso) at No. 4, the best pitchers available at No. 14 and No. 23 and the best value on the board at No. 29.

The first surprise came early, when Yordan Alvarez slipped to No. 4.  (I probably should have anticipated this, but was pretty sure that Vlad Guerrero, Fernando Tatis and Alvarez would go 1-2-3.)  I had Alvarez ranked slightly ahead of Alonso but still coveted Alonso as an everyday player who is slightly more proven with a promising future.  I hemmed and hawed, even expending an early timeout, before settling on Yordan.  Hope he’s not a half-season, sign-stealing flash in the pan.

My twin targets for No. 14 (best pitcher available) were superstar reliever Liam Hendriks and gifted but limited starter Frankie Montas.  Alas, Hendriks went to the Clips at No. 9 followed by Montas to the Brawlers at No. 10, and I was ill-prepared with no ready-made choice as Plan C.  Another first-round mini-crisis.

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Gopher Holes for April

When Kike Hernandez was still on the board at pick No. 25 at the big March draft in Scottsdale, the Gophers were delighted. Judged by some predraft analysts as a first-round talent, the Dodgers handyman looked like a perfect fit for Bushwood. With 422 at-bats, outstanding power, tremendous versatility and a nicely balanced card, Kike was a no-brainer pick for a team that desperately needed help at second base and in the outfield. Forty games into the season, however, the Gophers are still waiting for the real Kike to show up. With a .174 average and a .591 OPS, the underachieving Hernandez ranks as one of the many reasons that the Gophers are just 16-24 at the 40-game mark.

Speaking of underachievers, don’t forget about ace pitchers Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander and slugging outfielders Joey Gallo and George Springer. DeGrom (2-4, 6.12 ERA) and Verlander (3-4, 5.75 ERA) have been roughed up so often it is almost criminal. And we figured that Gallo couldn’t hit any worse than he did last year (.174 with 32 homers), but we were wrong (.143 with 7 homers — on pace for 28). Springer is building on his career-long underachieving rep with the Gophers, hitting just .203 with only three homers. Even veteran catcher Buster Posey, a traditional overachiever, has slipped below the Mendoza line at .196, perhaps due to exhaustion. Posey has started all 40 games behind the dish this season for the Gophers.

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Gopher Holes for March

With three genuine aces in the rotation for the first time in 40 years, the Gophers, a team traditionally built around offense, has a different look for 2019.  Sadly, the results fell well short of the expectations for two of the three aces in March.  Jacob deGrom went 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA over five starts, and Justin Verlander was hit even harder, going 2-1 with a 6.99 ERA in his five outings.  Thankfully, Trevor Bauer held up his end, going 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA in four starts.  The Gophers, however, went only 6-8 in their aces’ 14 starts for the month, which ain’t gonna cut it.

The bullpen, which features solid arms but lacks a true closer, had a nightmarish opening month.  The pen routinely blew leads and completely imploded at least once per series.  Relievers with inflated ERAs include Ryan Pressley (11.05), Jordan Hicks (9.00), TJ McFarland (6.75) and Steve Cishek (5.25).  Long reliever Mike Montgomery bucked that trend, however, posting a 1.56 ERA over 17.1 innings and notching four saves (all of the nine-out variety).  Overall, however, the Gophers went 0-3 in extra inning games.

Offensively, the under-achievers outnumbered the overachievers.  There was George Springer at .167, second-round draft pick Kike Hernandez at .158, Joey Gallo at .143 and Isiah Kiner-Falefa at ,087.  SS Paul DeJong earned hitter of the month honors, with 7 homers and 15 RBIs, hitting .357 with a .905 slugging and a 1.254 OPS.  Ryan Zimmerman’s stats were even better in part-time duty:  hitting .393 and slugging .893 with an OPS of 1.326.  First-round pick Jesus Aguilar led the squad with 17 RBIs but hit just .200.

The Gophers finished in a dead heat on the monthly run-differential column, scoring and allowing 96 runs.

Gopher Holes for October

Ryan ZImmerman


The Gophers didn’t remotely resemble a playoff team during the club’s disastrous 4-16 showing in July, but Bushwood was able to right the ship over the last three months.  That fast finish included a 12-8 August, an 11-9 September and a 13-7 October, just enough wins to earn a share of the final wild card.  It took a 5-3 victory over Dyersville in Game 161 to stamp Bushwood’s playoff ticket.

Ryan Zimmerman‘s contributions to the squad were enormous.  The slugging first baseman, selected with the 13th overall pick of the March draft, hit .299 with 46 homers and 122 RBI to earn team MVP honors.  Bushwood’s pitcher of the year also joined the team in March.  Yusmeiro Petit — the club’s third-round selection (No. 43 overall) — was a reliable closer who logged 93 high-leverage innings, collected 23 saves and went 10-4 with a 3.00 ERA.

Petit outperformed high-profile starters Justin Verlander (14-8, 4.73) and Jacob deGrom (16-8, 4.55).  Tajuan Walker (3.74) was Bushwood’s lone starter to post a sub-4 ERA.  Yu Darvish (6-12, 4.70, 39 homers allowed in 32 starts) was a major disappointment.

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Gopher Holes for September

The Gophers enter the final month of the season taking dead aim at one of the two remaining wild-card playoff berths, but it won’t be an easy chore with six other teams still very much in the running.

Coming off an 11-win September that featured a 4-1 series victory over front-running Margaritaville and a 3-2 triumph over the contending Beach Bums, it was the cellar-dwelling Hypnotoads and Tree Huggers who prevented the Gophers from making a real move in the standings.

First it was middle nephew Jason who guided the lowly Toads to a 3-2 series victory over Uncle Dave, posting solid victories in Games 2-4 while limiting the Gophers to just five runs in the three middle games. Then eldest nephew John opened Bushwood’s final series of the month with three narrow victories. Fearing a season-wrecking sweep, the Gophers needed a game-winning two-run homer from Joey Gallo with two outs in the ninth inning to salvage Game 4, then squeaked out another 4-3 triumph in the finale to avert disaster, conclude a thrilling series and earn a winning month.

Of course, the highlight of the month was the four wins vs. Margaritaville that only served to slow down Grid’s march to the division title. Jacob deGrom got things off on the right foot against the slugging Volcanoes, twirling a phenomenal two-hit shutout in Game 1, while notching 12 strikeouts. Parker Bridwell and Taijuan Walker continued to hold the Volcanoes in check (with great assistance from the bullpen) in subsequent 4-2 and 4-3 victories. In a sensational pitchers duel between Dinelson Limet and Yu Darvish, the Gophers lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in Game 4. In the finale, Bushwood rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to post a thrilling 6-5 victory, with Paul Dejong‘s two-run double in the seventh providing the winning runs.

Likewise, the series vs. the Bums included some rare feats, including three 10-inning games in a row, the Gophers blowing a 8-1 lead in the eighth inning of a 9-8 loss and the never-before-seen-or-heard-of accomplishment of blowing an 11-run lead in the eighth inning and then getting up off the mat to win it in 10, 13-12. (Yes, that all really did happen in this series, and if you don’t believe me, then just ask Mark Gergel.)

Believe it or not, the exact same bullpen that gave up zero runs in 19 innings vs. Margaritaville turned around and gave up 15 runs in 19.1 innings vs. the Bums. Go figure.

As a result, the Gophers find themselves in the middle of a group of seven teams contending for the final two wild-card spots. With the loser of the Westbound Division race between Applegate and Superior pretty much assured the first wild card, the following teams all remain in the hunt for the two other wild cards entering October play. They are: South Grand Prairie (78 wins), Satellite Beach (76), West Atlanta (75), Bushwood (75), Destin (74), Bismarck (72) and Dyersville (72). SGP is also still within striking distance (three games) of front-running Savannah in the Southbound.

Though facing dwindling usage situations at several positions, the Gophers look forward to the challenge of the October slate, featuring the Volcanoes again along with division foes Bismarck, East Cobb and Tatooine. “It’s October, and it’s all hands on deck,” said Gophers skipper Dave Renbarger. “The way I look at it, the playoffs have already started. It’s win or go home starting right now.”

Gopher Holes for August

After their 4-16 fiasco in July, the Gophers bounced back with 12 much-needed wins in August to rekindle wild-card hopes in Bushwood.  Those hopes, however, will require a big finish by the Gophers in September and October, as Bushwood enters the final two months four games behind the wild-card threshold in a multi-team race.

Nonetheless, optimism returned to Bushwood in August, primarily on the strength of a 5-0 sweep of Tatooine and a 4-1 outcome vs West Atlanta.  Series vs. Satellite Beach (1-4) and Superior (2-3) did little to help the Gophers’ cause.

Bushwood’s bats were booming against the Rebels, with the Gophers scoring 45 runs in the sweep.  The only close game was a 6-5 10-inning affair.  Against the Crush, the script was flipped as all five games were decided by one run and the Gophers won four of them despite scoring just 16 total runs in the series.  The only loss was a 1-0 setback that saw Luis Severino outduel Yu Darvish.

For the season, the Gophers have enjoyed near-flawless defense at the key positions of second base and shortstop.  Dustin Pedroia (1e4) and Scooter Gennett (3e13) have committed a grand total of two errors at second (one apiece).  At short, Paul DeJong (3e17) and Adeiny Hechavarria (1e7) have divided playing time almost equally and combined for just eight miscues (six by DeJong).

In reviewing the 2018 draft board, it could be concluded that the Gophers went 5-for-5 on their first five choices last March, based on the 120-game stats.  Top pick Ryan Zimmerman (No. 13 overall) has 36 homers and 96 RBIs to rank among the league leaders in both categories.  Next came DeJong (at No. 35 the first of Bushwood’s three third-round selections), and the shortstop is hitting .332 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs.  Catcher Austin Barnes came next at No. 39 and has been a perfect complement to Buster Posey behind the plate, hitting .265 with a .384 OBA.  The Gophers snagged reliever Yusmeiro Petit next at No. 43, and the righty has become one of the best closers in the league with 18 saves and a 2.24 ERA.  Finally, Gennett somehow fell to the Gophers in the fifth round at No. 69 overall.  Scooter is hitting .307 with 15 homers for Bushwood this year while leading the NL in real-life hitting for the Reds.

September looms as a critical month for the Gophers, who certainly need a winning record to remain in the hunt.  And things started off on the wrong foot as the cellar-dwelling Hypnotoads just took 3 of 5 from Bushwood in early September play.  The front-running Volcanoes, the wild-card contending Bums and the rebuilding Tree Huggers round out the slate for the month.

Gopher Holes for July

From Monty Python via YouTube

As we enter the home stretch of the 2018 I-75 season, the Gophers are taking their cues from the unmatched bravery shown by Monty Python’s battle-scarred Black Knight.  Despite suffering four substantial wounds during a bloody July, the Gophers fully intend to patch themselves back together and fight on to experience a glorious return to the playoffs and (dare we say) the Holy Grail of a league championship this fall.  While lesser teams might be tempted to retrench when their limbs start flying, the Gophers will stay true to their oft-repeated motto:  “Never surrender; never retreat.”

After such a nightmarish July, the valiant Black Knight himself would be proud.

A 2-3 series vs. Applegate?  “Tis but a scratch.”

Matching 1-4 series vs. Bismarck and SGP?  “I’ve had worse.”

An almost incomprehensible 0-5 sweep vs. once-powerful Savannah?  “Just a flesh wound.”

Admittedly, the Gophers’ bleeding was profuse during that 4-16 ordeal, coming on the heels of a successful 48-32 first half.  And some observers may view continuing the fight vs. a foe as formidable as the newly fortified Volcanoes as foolhardy and an exercise in futility.  But the Gophers stubbornly refuse to run and hide.

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Gopher Holes for June

Ahhh, June.  What a month it was.  The Gophers won all four series back in June, going 4-1 vs. the Toads and Treblemakers and 3-2 vs. the Huggers and Juice.  That 14-6 record gave Bushwood a 48-32 record at the season’s halfway point.  That’s a cool .600 winning percentage and just three games behind first-place Margaritaville in the Northbound standings.

Alas, the dog days of July are now upon us, and the Gophers have crashed and burned.  First there was the 0-5 series vs. Savannah, when Bushwood managed only eight runs total in five games.  Then came today’s 1-4 showing vs. the Bismarck, in which the Gophers cranked up their mighty offense to the tune of 12 total runs.  What is next for the boys from Bushwood, you ask?  Applegate and SGP are on deck, with Gary and Garth no doubt licking their chops.

Meanwhile, back to the salad days of June, when the offense was clicking.  The Gophers actually scored 17 runs in one game against Dyersville and 44 runs in one series against the Toads.

Interesting first half stat:  The Gophers, despite having just the seventh-highest scoring team in the league, were the only team in the league to avoid being shut out over the first 80 games.  (Alas, Bushwood has been blanked twice already in July).

In another streak that will be difficult to extend, the Gophers managed to avoid a losing month in the first half, going 14-6 in March and June and 10-10 in April and May.

Welcome back:  Long lost starter Parker Bridwell made a triumphant return to the rotation in June.  The Gophers’ No. 6 starter, Bridwell made three starts back in March then spent the next two months on the inactive list before resurfacing in June to start four times.  The Gophers won all four games, and Bridwell, again relegated to the cab squad for July, has some season stats worth boasting about.  He is 3-0 with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP for his seven total starts, and he went the distance in all three of his wins.  The righty has 78 innings remaining for the second half but is only scheduled to get three more starts the way the Gophers’ second-half rotation currently lines up.  So if anyone is in the market for an unbeaten starter with lots of usage for the last three months, please inquire within.

Speaking of the trade deadline, the Gophers’ dormant offense would seem to need a shot in the arm.  Recently acquired OF Josh Reddick could still provide a boost, but he has done little in his first 10 July games in Bushwood.  In the bullpen, another lefty arm could come in handy down the stretch.

Including the dismal July results, the Gophers are currently 49-41 and obviously losing ground in the Northbound and wild-card races.  So the pressure is on to bounce back strong over the remaining 70 games and make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Gopher Holes for May

Righty Taijuan Walker enjoyed a spectacular debut month for the Gophers, going 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in four starts, including a complete game victory over the division-leading Volcanoes. Walker gave up just 19 hits and two runs over 27.1 innings. The Gophers won three of his four starts, the only loss coming in a tough-luck 3-1 setback vs. the Rebels, Walker’s former team.

For the month, the Gophers broke even at 10-10 to reach the 60-game plateau at 34-26, five games behind the Volcanoes in the Northbound. Bushwood went 3-2 at Margaritaville and vs. Destin, but slipped to 2-3 vs. Tatooine and at West Atlanta. After winning 6 of the first 8 games of the month vs. Margaritaville and Destin (and grabbing a comfy lead in Game 9 vs. the Bums), the Gophers had visions of grandeur. But the club’s luck changed abruptly, with the Gophers limping through a 4-8 stretch to close the month.

Crummy game of the month: The turning point came against the Bums in that Game 4. Destin skipper Ken Crawford was already in a bad frame of mind after three quick losses. But the Bums showed signs of life in the fifth inning of Game 4, rallying for five runs against Yu Darvish to grab a 6-4 lead. Destin ace Chris Sale was struggling, and when he hit George Springer with a pitch to open the bottom of the fifth, Crawford pulled the lefty in favor of Addison Reed. False move. Reed promptly walked Buster Posey and Ryan Zimmerman, then allowed a grand slam to Austin Barnes to lose the lead and fall into endurance. For good measure, Shin-Soo Choo followed with a solo shot to put the Gophers up 9-6 and push Crawford over the edge. He decided to leave his tired reliever on the hill to absorb further punishment, but a funny thing happened. Reed settled down and tossed 2.2 spotless innings, and the Bums struck for two runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth to notch an unlikely 11-9 victory. Ryan Braun’s two-run homer got the Gophers sweating in the eighth, and Carlos Correa’s 3-run bomb in the ninth off elite reliever Steve Cishek finished them off in the ninth.

Cishek had a month to forget, repeatedly losing leads and getting lit up regularly despite a card to die for. His ERA climbed from 0.96 at the outset of the month all the way up to 6.06 by month’s end.

As a team, the Gophers’ offense fell flat in May, scoring 3 runs or fewer in 11 of the 20 games overall, including 4 of 5 vs. the Rebels. Against the Crush, the Gophers dropped three games in a row after winning the first two, scoring just 8 total runs in the three losses.

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Gopher Holes for March

There was great joy throughout Bushwood in March as the Gophers posted a league-best 14-6 record in the opening month of the I-75 season.  The Gophers got started with an epic 3-2 series victory over the Paperclips face-to-face at the draft.  The season opener was a tense 15-inning affair won by Bushwood 2-1, followed by a 13-inning 7-6 loss in Game 2.  Lady Luck smiled on the Gophers for their next two series — 4-1 triumphs over Dyersville and East Cobb that truthfully could have gone either way.  Finally, the Gophers and Warriors split the first four games of the last series before Jacob deGrom pitched Bushwood to a 5-3 victory in the finale and a 14-6 ledger.

For the month, deGrom went 4-0 in four starts despite a so-so 4.34 ERA.  All-purpose reliever Yusmeiro Petit made a great first impression, going 2-1 with five saves and a 1.27 ERA over 21.1 innings.  At the plate, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hit .367 for the month, catcher Buster Posey hit .338 with four homers and 12 RBIs, while new first baseman Ryan Zimmerman had 16 RBIs.  Zimm, Joey Gallo and George Springer shared the team HR lead with five.  Meanwhile, highly limited slugger Teoscar Hernandez expended 28 of his 88 ABs and hit just .179 with three homers, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit a sluggish .180.

In a surprising and troubling stat, the Gophers hit into a whopping 27 DPs as a team while turning just 15 for the month.  Given the fact that Bushwood often employs 1 fielders at second, third and short (Pedroia, Kyle Seager and Adeiny Hechavarria), one might expect to see the opposite DP differential.

After playing three road series in March, the Gophers are looking forward to three home sets in April.  The Bombers, Scorps and Titans will all visit Bushwood this month.  A five-game set at Satellite Beach against the fast-starting Brawlers rounds out the April slate.

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Gopher Holes for June

After stumbling out of the gate with only eight March wins, the Gophers righted the ship with double-digit win totals for three consecutive months (14-6 in April, 10-10 in May and 12-8 in June) to reach the midway point with 44 wins.  The successful first half has sparked postseason hopes around Bushwood for a team that looked no better than middle-of-the-pack after the draft. Although the addition of quality starter Jacob deGrom bodes well for the second half, the Gophers over-used numerous key players in the first half —  among them SP Justin Verlander (113%), SP Yu Darvish (124%), CF Kevin Kiermaier (115%) and OF Chris Young (118%) — so the club will be relying on some lesser players to make up the difference in the second half. … No Gophers appear among the league leaders on offense.  RF George Springer leads the club with a mere 10 homers, and Kiermaier and 2B Dustin Pedroia share the RBI lead with just 40.  Springer (.208) and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.205) got hot in June to hike their averages above the Mendoza Line.  But Cabrera, who smacked 23 homers for the Mets last year, has only four for the Gophers.

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Gopher Holes for April

Jeremy Hellickson

Buoyed by a fanciful 14-6 April showing, the Gophers happily reached the season’s quarter pole with a 22-18 record.  With 4-1 series victories over Superior, Savannah and Satellite Beach, April was certainly a month to remember in Bushwood. In checking the 40-game stats, the Gophers feature over-achievers galore on the pitching side of the ledger, but plenty of room for improvement the at the plate.  Despite a mediocre-at-best staff on paper, Bushwood’s team ERA of 3.40 through 40 games ranked second in the league (trailing only Dyersville’s 3.24 but much better than the league average of 4.11).  … For starters, check out Jeremy Hellickson, who fortunately slid to the Gophers in the third round of March’s draft.  The righty is 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA. He has pitched well in all seven of his starts so far and has won his last five in a row entering May.  Fellow righty Trevor Bauer (2-5) hasn’t enjoyed the offensive support Hellickson has, but his ERA stands at 3.72 and he has logged at least five innings in all eight of his starts.  Even lefty Martin Perez, Bushwood’s No. 6 starter, has a respectable ERA of 3.98 through four starts. … And the bullpen, boosting a cumulative ERA of 2.07, is crawling with overachievers, including Alex Claudio (0.00 ERA), Delois Guerra (0.96), Hansel Robles (1.11), Sam Dyson (1.23), Nate Jones (1.96) and David Phelps (2.20).  … Offensively, however, it is another story.  Bushwood’s primary lineup will never be described as fearsome, but these stats suggest it is woefully inept.  With a team OPS of .688, the Gophers are next-to-last in that key category and well off the league average of .744. … Everyday RF George Springer is the worst offender, hitting just .159 with 3 homers and 10 RBIs and an OPS of just .513 (vs. .816 in real life).   Other culprits include second-round pick Aledmys Diaz (.213/2/7/.616), Steve Pearce (.196/4/12/.631) and Denard Span (.177/1/5/.523).  … Only two Gophers are bucking this glum trend at the plate:  CF Kevin Kiermaier and C Buster Posey. Kiermaier, known more for his glove than his bat, is Bushwood’s No. 9 hitter yet somehow leads the team in RBI with 21, including three that came on game-winning squeeze bunts.  And Posey, who normally gets a great card and still overachieves, is doing it again despite a modest card, hitting .290 with an .836 OPS.  Against lefty starters, however, the baffling team-wide slump continues, as the Gophers are just 5-9 vs. lefties despite a loaded lineup. … Future watch:  Although the Gophers have settled into the middle of the pack in the early-season Yahoo standings, Bushwood fans are enthused about the home run power displayed by waiver draft pickup Joey Gallo so far with the Rangers.  Alas, the Rangers have demoted star-crossed prospect and fellow Gopher Jurickson Profar to the minors after a poor start.  Meanwhile, top pick Nomar Mazara falls in the middle entering May, having cooled off considerably after opening the season on fire with the Rangers. … Checking the standings, Bushwood stood two games behind the front-running Volcanoes in the Northbound race entering May.  And the Gophers were able to inch a little closer by taking 3 of 5 from Margaritaville to open May play.  Hoping to extend their unlikely streak of four winning series in a row (after losing 3 of 4 April series), the Gophers face Tatooine, West Atlanta and Destin later this month.

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Gopher Holes for March

Martin Prado

In going 8-12, Bushwood lost Game 1 of all four series, which made it seem like they were playing catch-up all month long. … In Game 1 against Springfield, the Topes set the tone by putting up five first-inning runs against Verlander in an eventual 6-5 loss. More misery followed as Springfield won the next three games by narrow margins before the Gophers averted the sweep with a 9-1 victory against lefty Dallas Keuchel. … Both of Bushwood’s victories against Dyersville came in extra innings, with the go-ahead runs in each scoring on a squeeze bunt by Kevin Kiermaier. In the series against the Treblemakers, the Gophers hit .196 and failed to homer. … Verlander got two starts against Applegate, but Bushwood lost both games. The Gophers’ other victory over a lefty came in a 12-2 game against the Clips’ Drew Pomeranz. … After Ian Kennedy dropped the opener against SGP, the Gophers prevailed in three of the next four games, all tight contests … Martin Prado hit an even .500 for the month (21 for 42) … Albert Pujols hit just .200 but provided 7 homers and 14 RBIs. … Third-round pick Jeremy Hellickson went 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four solid starts.

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Gopher Holes for March

A staple of league newsletters in the 1980s and ’90s, team notes are back! If you have team notes you’d like to submit for your club each month, e-mail Gary.

GOPHER HOLES:  The Gophers had plenty of heroes in March en route to a 15-5 record, but let’s give the nod to slick-fielding 3B Scott Rolen as team MVP for the month.  Rolen hit .356 with a team-high 7 homers and 14 RBIs.  His OBP was .441 and his slugging was .831 … With 5 homers and 14 walks in 26 ABs, DH Jim Thome actually trumped Rolen in average (.385), OBP (.600) and slugging (1.044) in part-time duty … RF Delmon Young collected 11 doubles on the month to grab the league lead … Top pick Buster Posey debuted with a disappointing .220 average … With a league-low 3.43 team ERA, the Gophers’ new-look pitching staff passed its first test.  The set-up tandem of Brandon Lyon (14.1 IP) and Rafael Soriano (6.1 IP) combined to toss 20.2 innings without allowing an earned run … And long reliever Justin Masterson logged 19 innings with an impressive 1.89 ERA … Top starter Tim Hudson (4-1, 2.81 ERA) and Mat Latos (3-0, 2.22 ERA) worked 6 or more innings in all nine of their starts … In a 5-0 sweep of Detroit, the Gophers outscored the Dogs 37-9.  Utility guy Emilio Bonafacio went 5-for-5 in one game against the Dogs, catapulting him to a .538 month (7-for-13) … The Gophers’ April schedule includes early showdowns against Superior (16-4) and Margaritaville (14-6).  The Gophers will make one small roster adjustment for April, replacing lefty Travis Wood (1-2, 7.80 ERA) with righty Rick Porcello as No. 5 starter.