North Adams SteepleCats enjoyed successful NECBL season
NORTH ADAMS >> The North Adams SteepleCats made the NECBL playoffs in 2016. While the team did not bring home its first league championship, the team's president said it was — all in all — a successful summer.
"Other than I wish we were still playing, our fan base was consistent. Over the last two years, we changed our marketing a little bit. We've done more social media," said team president Dan Bosley. "Over the past two years, we've had some really good teams and really exciting teams.
"Our fan base stayed along."
North Adams finished 23-20 and lost in the first round of the NECBL playoffs to the Valley Blue Sox 2 games to 1.
The SteepleCats have kind of found a good spot in the top five of the NECBL attendance race.
North Adams drew 15,102 fans in 22 dates this past summer, fifth in the league. The SteepleCats also averaged 686 fans at Joe Wolfe Field, which was also fifth in the league. North Adams has been fifth in the league every year since 2012.
Coincidentally, out of 169 summer college wood bat teams, the SteepleCats are also kind of smack in the middle. North Adams is 92nd in total attendance and 89th in average attendance.
"Traditionally, what happens in the summer is you start off, but then people go on vacation in July and your crowds start to diminish. That didn't happen with us," said Bosley. "We were pretty consistent throughout the year."
Bosley said he was especially happy with the crowd of 718 that took to The Joe for the only playoff game. He said that with little time to promote it, the numbers showed the interest in the team.
"I would walk down the street, people would grab me and say they wish the season was longer. I'd tell them 'So do we,'" the SteepleCats president said. "I'm very happy."
On the field, Bosley said that while he would have liked the SteepleCats to have gotten out of their house of horrors in Holyoke, that didn't diminish the good feelings that Bosley, general manager-pitching coach Jonah Bayliss and field manager Mike Armstrong had about the 2016 team.
"This was a great bunch of guys who had great chemistry. The credit for that goes to Mike Armstrong, [coach] Ethan Newton and especially to Armstrong and Jonah Bayliss. Those guys did such a great job at bringing this team together," said Bosley. "The team was put together, not just for baseball talent, but for character and chemistry."
Three of those 2016 SteepleCats went back to their colleges with All-NECBL honors.
Starter Braxton Wilks was named to the All-NECBL first team. The left-handed pitcher from Abilene Christian etched his name into the SteepleCats record book this summer.
Wilks went 7-1 in the regular season with a 2.13 earned run average. He led the league in wins in the regular season and was fifth in ERA. His playoff win over Valley gave him eight wins and the North Adams single-season record for wins, breaking the mark set by Tim Boyce.
Wilks played at McLennan College last year, transferring there after starting his career at Kansas State.
Relief pitcher Tanner Bird, of Adams and Franklin Pierce, and center fielder Daniel Holst, of Southeast Missouri State, were named to the All-NECBL second team.
Bird finished the season with 10 saves and was tied for the league lead with Ocean State's Robert Hitt. Five teams had fewer saves than either Bird or Hitt.
Bird pitched in 17 regular-season games, registered an 0.52 ERA and struck out 22 hitters in 17 innings.
Holst was seventh in the league with a .336 batting average. He was also tied for second in the NECBL with 30 runs scored. Holst had eight extra-base hits, including two home runs. He struck out only 29 times in 125 at-bats.
Troy Dixon of Newport was named the leagues most valuable player and won the batting title with a .371 average. Keene starter Tommy Doyle won the top pitcher and top pro prospect award. Doyle struck out 40 in 33 1/3 innings, holding hitters to a .123 batting average. Chris Morris of the Sanford Mainers was named the manager of the year.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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