The River City Rascals finished out the 2016 season one win short of their second Frontier League Championship with a 1-0 loss in game five of the Championship Series against the Evansville Otters this past Monday night.
Under manager Steve Brook, the Rascals have been one of the final two teams remaining three years in a row and five of the past seven. Brook guided his team to a 49-47 record and it wasn’t until the 96th game of the year that the Rascals clinched a postseason berth.
Heading into the 2016 season, the Rascals returned the majority of their pitching staff but had to find a multitude of replacements for the lineup as only Josh Ludy, Josh Silver and Johnny Morales returned.
The starting rotation at the beginning of the year featured Joe Scanio, Tim Koons, Lucas Laster and Zeb Sneed who were all with the Rascals in 2015 and that rotation along with Josh Wright and Jason Ziegler propelled the Rascals to a season high seven games over .500 (19-12) on June 18th and some offensive guys were on pace to put up career seasons.
However, the Rascals began to lose players the remainder of June due to injury such as starting pitcher Joe Scanio and shortstop Johnny Morales along with a few other key players and the season took a turn as the team would lose 14 of their next 18 games before the much needed Frontier League All-Star Break.
However, also during the month of June, the Rascals had some personal accolades take place and it was highlighted by Josh Silver getting sold to the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs signed Silver and placed him with the South Bend Cubs (Single-A) after he played in 20 games with the Rascals and led the Frontier League with a .455 batting average. During that time, Silver also ranked top five in home runs (5) and RBI (19).
June also was the month that Zeb Sneed tossed a career outing with a two-hit complete game shutout over the Traverse City Beach Bums while also tallying a career high eleven strikeouts.
The other accolades came when the Frontier League All-Star teams were announced and the Rascals had two selections, catcher Josh Ludy and closer Zac Treece. It was the third time in each of their Frontier League career’s that they were named to the team and they both were successful in helping the western division to an 11-4 win. Ludy drove in one run while Treece threw a scoreless inning with a strikeout.
Following the break, the Rascals opened up the second half of the season with a 23-26 record and did not get back to the .500 mark until a win against the Windy City ThunderBolts on August 20th that put them at 42-42. That win also was win number five in a historic eleven game winning streak and following the final win of the streak, the Rascals were 48-42 and three ½ games up for the final wild card spot.
The official date for the Rascals playoff clincher was on September 4th, the final day of the regular season where they defeated the Southern Illinois Miners by a score of 5-1.
In the divisional round, the Rascals took on the Miners again and used a three-run home run from Kyle Gaedele and a Miners wild pitch to win game one, a 14 strikeout performance from Dylan Brammer to win game two and then a solid starting effort by Dan Ludwig to win game four and put the Rascals into the Frontier League Championship Series for the third year in a row.
Aside from the great team accolades, multiple individuals had career years including Josh Silver, who finished the year third in the Frontier League in batting average at a .352 and Alexi Colon who finished with 17 home runs, also good for third in the league.
Pitching wise, Dan Ludwig was second with ten wins, Zeb Sneed sixth in innings pitched and Zac Treece was second in saves with 22. Those 22 saves from Treece were 17 more than his previous career high and his earned run average through 48 1/3 innings stood at a team low 1.86.
Other notables include first year catcher Mike Jurgella being named to the Frontier League Postseason All-Star team and Zeb Sneed and Kyle Gaedele each earning Frontier League Player of the Week Awards.
Despite all the individual achievements, the Rascals came one win short of the ultimate goal and will hope to return a variety of key lineup pieces to O’Fallon come the 2017 campaign.