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River City Rascals Engage in Busy Off-Season

Manager Steve Brook and the River City Rascals have announced the contract extensions of eight players from the 2016 campaign in which the Rascals reached the Frontier League Championship Series for the third consecutive season.

On top of the eight returners, the eighth year skipper has gone to different leagues such as the American Association to acquire more Rascals.

The first of the returning batch that Brook has re-signed include pitchers Reese Gregory, Jason Zgardowski, Austin Warner and Lucas Laster.

2016 marked the first season in the Frontier League for the first three arms and they combined for 41 appearances with seven wins and two saves.

Gregory, in his first professional season coming out of St. Cloud State University was used primarily as a long reliever and finished with 52 innings in 16 appearances. He picked up his first win in his second appearance of his professional career with two scoreless innings against the Schaumburg Boomers and his save came on August 26th against Normal.

Jason Zgardowski was signed in the second half of the year and served in a variety of roles for the Rascals bullpen. One of the youngest players in the Frontier League at 22 years old during the season, the San Antonio native went 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA and finished top three in opponent’s batting average with a stellar .205.

Similar to Gregory, Warner was in his first season as a professional ball player and after starting as a reliever, got placed into the starting rotation serving as one of the Rascals top arms. His best stretch came in August where he picked up four consecutive wins and allowed just six earned runs in 23 2/3 innings. During that time, Warner also had an eleven strikeout game and matched that a few weeks later in game one of the Frontier League playoffs against the Southern Illinois Miners.

Lucas Laster began the year as a starter but injuries moved him to the bullpen and eventually ended his season at the end of June. In his two year Rascal career out of Mississippi State, Laster has combined for a 4.29 ERA, a 4-3 record and 94 1/3 innings of action. He is also 13 strikeouts away from 100 and has tossed two complete games in his short professional career.

The other returners up to this point in November include outfielder Robby Enslen and infielders Josh Silver, Clint Freeman and Braxton Martinez.

Enslen was a candidate for the Frontier League Rookie of the Year award after finishing the regular season with a .272 average, eight home runs and was top five on the team with 42 RBI. Enslen appeared in 88 out of the 96 regular season games and also placed towards the top of team in doubles notching 15.

Josh Silver had one of the most productive seasons in the Frontier League last year and was 11 points away from the batting champion. Silver maintained a team high .352 batting average in 64 games and was the only Rascal this year to be sold to a Major League Organization. Silver was sold to the Chicago Cubs towards the beginning of June after getting off to a red hot start hitting .455 through the first 20 games. The utility man also served in multiple positions besides his primary hot corner: shortstop, first base and outfield.

Clint Freeman returns as an infielder/left-handed pitcher for the 2017 Rascals. In his debut year with the Rascals, Freeman played in 75 games and maintained a .254 average while blasting nine home runs and 39 RBI. In 2015, Freeman was used as a LHP for the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie league affiliate so be on the lookout for a two way player this upcoming season.

Local product Braxton Martinez rounds out the current returners and is a corner infielder from St. Louis University. Martinez notched his first professional career home run against the Gateway Grizzlies and totaled 27 hits and 13 RBI. Martinez very solid defensively committing just four errors in 46 games played.

As for the newcomers, Manager Steve Brook has acquired Connor Teykl from the American Association in exchange for Rascals eight game winner Zeb Sneed. Teykl played in his first professional season this past summer out of Rice University with the Lincoln Saltdogs and hit .323 in limited action (nine games).

Brook also has given contracts to a pair of arms, RHP Tanner Wilt and LHP Chris Cummins, and first baseman Vin Guglietti.

Wilt will begin his first professional season in 2017 out of La Roche College where he helped lead the team to the Division Three Championship round for the first time in program history.  Wilt had a stellar year with a 9-2 record and a 1.37 era through 14 starts. Wilt also led the team in strikeouts with 103 and opponents hit just .169 against him.

LHP Chris Cummins first began playing professional baseball in 2012 with Wichita of the American Association and has since played for six teams in four different leagues. In 2016, he was with the Pittsburg Diamonds of the Pacific Association and held a 3.35 era through 107.1 innings. In his career, the southpaw is 15-12 with a 4.58 through 57 outings.

As for Vin Guglietti, he was with the Gateway Grizzlies and the Southern Illinois Miners last year playing in 54 games and tallying 45 hits. The first baseman has also played in the Canadian-American Association and in total has appeared in 102 games.

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