Beetles baseball: Alexandria baffled by post-season all-star voting
Alexandria Beetles' manager Matt Hancock thought he might have been missing an attachment when he got the e-mail that announced the 30 players who were voted to the postseason all-star team late last week.
The reason for that was because only one of his players was on the roster. Anthony Bazzani was the Beetles' lone representative after becoming one of the best relievers in the league this summer.
The fact there were not more Beetles named to the team left Hancock shocked. His team finished with the best ove rall record at 44-25. They ran away with the second half with a 28-11 record, five wins more than Battle Creek's 23 wins in the South Division.
"To be honest, I feel like it was a slap in the face," Hancock said. "I was pretty upset at it. I know the guys were upset at it. To me, it was kind of the rest of the league saying, 'you guys are a flash in the pan. You're not very good. You guys winning all those games was a fluke.' "
It would have been tough to omit Bazzani from the roster. The righthander from Eastern Kentucky shut the door at the end of games with 12 saves and a 1.45 ERA. His 70 strikeouts were fourth most in the league. He issued 16 walks and allowed 40 hits in 49 2/3 innings pitched.
He not only anchored the Beetles' bullpen, but he elevated his stock dramatically in the process. Hancock said Bazzani came into the summer throwing in the mid-to-upper 80s. He is now being clocked in the low-to-mid 90s with a good breaking ball to keep hitters off balance.
"He's extremely deserving," Hancock said. "He's one of the main reasons we are where we are, but what he's done for himself is amazing. He came into this summer as a guy who was really on nobody's radar as far as scouts go. He will go back to school as one of the [top junior prospects] in the country. If he can put together another strong season at Eastern Kentucky, he's going to have a chance to get drafted pretty high."
Hancock felt there were at least four other Beetles who should have been recognized as postseason all stars alongside Bazzani. He used Ben Magsig as an example. The third baseman from Eastern Michigan hit .317 with 60 walks as the Beetles leadoff hitter. He scored 54 runs and added 24 RBIs in 186 at-bats. Brainerd's Dan Olinger was the North's third-base selection after hitting .288 with 45 RBIs in 274 at-bats.
"It's kind of a product of some guys getting locked in on one player and not paying attention to what's going on around the rest of the league," Hancock said. "Ben Magsig broke the Northwoods' League walks record, leads in on-base percentage. You just kind of scratch your head."
All the Beetles could do was use it as motivation. Even after posting the best record in the league, the all-star selections had this team feeling it had something to prove heading into the playoffs on Monday.
"It's a chip on our shoulder," Hancock said. "I know it's a chip on my shoulder. So hopefully we can take this and use it as motivation to kind of say, 'you know what? You think we don't have more players worthy of being all stars, but we're going to go out and win this whole thing."
Cooper named MVP, Schwartz POY
Two players from Mankato came away with the MVP and Pitcher of the Year Award. What everyone following the Northwoods' League knew was coming was made official when Shaun Cooper was named the league's most valuable player. He had one of the best seasons in NWL history with a record 20 home runs.
Cooper was far from just a power hitter. The 5'10," 195-pound junior from Tucson, Arizona was second in runs (53), third in hits (78) and first in total bases (158), extra-base hits (36) and slugging percentage (.672). His 61 RBIs led the league and were the fourth most in NWL history. Two more RBIs in the playoffs would put him second on that list, behind long-time major leaguer Jay Gibbons, who finished with 68 for Manitowoc in 1997.
The Beetles went into their playoff series against Mankato determined not to let Cooper be the one to beat them.
"If we have to walk him 16 times in the series then that's what we'll do," Hancock said. "With runners in scoring position, he's proven he's the best in the league. If he has proven he can beat us like that, why continue to let him do that?"
Cooper's teammate Blake Schwartz was named the Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 1.71 ERA with 75 strikeouts on his way to a 6-1 record.
Green Bay led all teams with four players selected to the postseason all-star team. Brainerd was second with three. Donnie Scott of Battle Creek was named the Manager of the Year. Jason Ramos of Mankato was named the Coach of the Year, while the Madison Mallards' home field, Warner Park, was named the best playing surface.