The Lima Locos somehow navigated their way around 15 rain outs this year.
No big deal.
All this team did was win the Great Lakes Collegiate League regular-season title with a record of 28-7 and set a franchise record for winning percentage at .800.
In fact, in the 29-year history of the GLCL, it’s the third best winning percentage behind the 2001 Delaware Cows (.816, 31-7) and the 1988 Toledo Glass Sox (.805, 33-8).
The Locos fell one win short of the team’s most wins (29), when they went 29-14 during the championship year of 2011.
They finished the regular season winning eight straight and 16 of 17. The Locos went 21-2 since starting the year 7-5.
Combining average and power, this was the Locos’ best overall hitting team with a .296 batting average, 71 doubles and 35 home runs. The Locos averaged 6.9 runs-per-game and had eight games where they scored at least 10 runs.
The club came up just short of the team batting record of .297, set in 1991.
The Locos open the playoffs with a best-of-three semifinal series at 7 p.m. tonight at Simmons Field against the Southern Ohio/Licking County play-in winner. Game 2 is on the road on Friday. Game 3, if necessary, is at home at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Locos third baseman Will Kilgore said. “Nobody’s going to remember that. What they’re going to remember is if we win a ring or not. That’s what we’re going for.”
Here’s my regular season grade card:
Cole Gordon (Mississippi State) split time between designated hitter and first base. No matter where he was, he crushed the ball, as he led the league in hitting at .400 (30 for 75). He was also second in the league in home runs with seven. He had seven doubles and 21 RBI.
“We’re not satisfied with the regular season,” Gordon said. “We came here for one reason, to win a championship, and I think we have the team to do it.”
Hunter Williams (Tulane) also played first and hit .263 with two home runs, 19 RBI. He also led the team with 13 stolen bases.
At third base was Will Kilgore (Georgia State), who hit .320 with six home runs and 23 RBI. Shortstop was split between leadoff hitter Grant Williams (Kennesaw State), who hit .271 with 16 walks and seven steals and Tyler Beckwith (Richmond), who rallied down the stretch to hit .263.
Williams also played second, as did Trey Logan (Georgia) and Nate Romans (Ohio State). Logan hit .190, while Romans hit .145.
Over the last 20 games, the infield defense went from average to good, led by some spectacular plays by Kilgore.
Offensively and defensively, this is one of the best Locos’ outfields in 29 years.
Center fielder Kyle London (Washington) used his speed to track down balls from alley to alley. He hit .286 with 10 stolen bases and 11 hit by pitch in only 49 at-bats, as he joined the team in July.
Right fielder/center fielder Mitch Carriger (Maryville) batted .369 with seven doubles and two home runs. Left fielder Luke Reynolds (Mississippi State) hit .346 with 10 doubles.
Right fielder Brett Murray (Creighton) batted .369 with team highs in doubles (13) and RBI (33). he also had five home runs. Outfielder Henry Rowling (Georgia) hit .274 with two home runs.
“We have a balanced lineup,” Reynolds. “We have a bunch of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, and a bunch of contact and speed guys. This lineup can compete with anybody.”
Billy Lipari (Evansville) and Michael Emodi (Creighton) split the duties behind the plate.
Both were plusses on defense.
Lipari hit .338 with three home runs and 13 RBI. Emodi batted .284 with two home runs and 11 RBI.
The team’s ERA hovered around 5.50 after the first 12 games, but finished at 4.22, which ranked fifth in the league.
In the second half, the Locos developed a solid rotation with right-hander Nick Eltzroth (Ohio Northern), who was 1-0, 2.25 ERA; right-hander Tyler Anderson (Bowling Green), who was 3-0, 2.85; Tyler Miller (Northern Kentucky), who was 2-0, 2.94; knuckelballer Michael Bonifay (North Greenville), who was 3-0 with a 3.03; and Isaiah Montoya-Gonzales (Butler County CC), who was 4-0 with a 3.61.
Eltzroth, who will start Game 1 of the playoffs, struck out 15 and walked only three in 24 innings.
The bullpen is led by left-hander Drew Faintich (Central Florida), who had a 0.65 ERA with one save. He had 20 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. It also has right-handers Seth Kinker (Ohio State), who has three saves and a 3.66 ERA and Mitchell White (Santa Clara), who had three saves with a 7.87. There’s also Will Solomon (Georgia Gwinnette), who had a 3.03.
Over the final 23 regular-season games (21-2), the Locos had timely hitting, power, defense and pitching. If that trend continues, the Locos will bring home their fourth GLCL championship, and first since 2011.
And if the Locos do win the title, the team grade elevates to A+.
OVERALL GRADE: A
Reach Tom Usher at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Lima_Usher.