For the City Times
Season highlighted by most wins in a season in league history
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – After a championship season in 2016, the Rafters followed with an encore performance of tying or breaking 35 team and league records. In its second consecutive winning season, the club was guided once again by the coaching staff of Craig Noto, John Halama, and Kirk Shrider en route to the most successful regular season in Northwoods League history.
First Half (27-9)
The season started with a 3-0 shutout victory of the Kenosha Kingfish, marking the first time the Rafters recorded a shutout in team history. The following day the Rafters won on a walk-off home run, putting the team at 2-0 to star the season for the first team in club history. The start helped spark a franchise-best 14 game win streak, the third longest in NWL history. The excitement only built from there for the rest of the season as the team finished with the best record in a single half in team history while becoming the fastest team to win 30 games. The Rafters ended the first half with the best record for the third straight time, marking a run of three straight division titles to give them a bid back in the Northwoods League playoffs.
After a 2016 season where the Rafters placed five players on the NWL All-Star team, the 2017 roster included six players from the Rafters, including four pitchers and two position players. Representing the Rafters were outfielders Dustin Woodcock (SIUE) and Jake Guenther (Sacramento City) while pitchers Jesse Slinger (Lock Haven), Jack Eagan (Madison College), Quinn DiPasquale (Stevens Institute of Technology) and Cameron Busby (Belmont Abbey) anchored the team. Busby earned his second straight NWL All-Star appearance after earning a spot on the 2016 roster. All four pitchers combined to throw three scoreless innings in the South’s victory. Woodcock started in right field while Guenther manned the DH role. The South Division squad was coached by Rafters’ field manager Craig Noto, pitching coach John Halama, and hitting coach Kirk Shrider. The Rafters had three participants at the home run derby as Woodcock and Guenther joined Christian Jones (Campbell).
Second Half (25-11)
For the second straight year, the Rafters finished the second half of the season 25-11 to win its fourth straight South Division Title, the first time any NWL team has accomplished the feat. With five games left in the regular season and 49 wins in their pocket, the Rafters finished the regular season with three more wins, breaking the Northwoods League record for most wins in a single season with 52. The previous record of 51 was held by the 2013 Waterloo Bucks. The Rafters went on their way to tie or break 35 team or league records, 14 more than the previous season. Bryson Stott (UNLV) tied or broke five records himself, including most hits in a single season (100), most games played in (71) most runs scored (72), and most at-bats (284) whiling tying the record for most stolen bases (26). Woodcock drove home the most runs in a single season, bringing home 61 runs.
Postseason Games and Awards:
While no team has ever repeated as NWL Champions, the Rafters were on the quest to make more history. Winning its first game, Wisconsin Rapids defeated the Lakeshore Chinooks 6-4 with three runs in the eighth inning to cap off an incredible come from behind win to open the playoffs. Ryan Stekl (Canisius) hit a two-run home run to give the Rafters their first lead of the game, and Woodcock followed him with a solo blast of his own. However, the Rafters historic season came to an end the next day after a 6-1 loss at Witter Field at the hands of the Battle Creek Bombers.
Rafters Field Manager Craig Noto was honored as Manager of the Year following the regular season and pitching Coach John Halama was awarded Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. Postseason All-Stars were Ryan Stekl, Bryson Stott, Dustin Woodcock, Jack Eagan, Jesse Slinger, and Isaiah Carranza. Rafters radio broadcaster Mick Tidrow was honored with the Broadcaster of the Year award.
It was a year of breaking records and stats that jumped off the page, but several performances stood out among the long list. Just one year after the saves record in a single season was broken, Layne Henderson (Azusa Pacific) tied the record of 18, leading the league in saves. Also on the pitchers mound, the Rafters had four, six-game winners, highlighted by Slinger’s eight wins, the most in a single season in franchise history. As a starting pitching staff, Slinger, Eagan, DiPasquale, and Isaiah Carranza (Oregon) combined for an outstanding record of 27-3 over the summer. Eagan finished 7-0, while Carranza joined the team in late June and pitched to the tune of a 6-0 mark.
Team Leaders (Regular Season)
Notable Hitting Leaders:
Ryan Stekl (Canisius): .364 AVG, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 17 2B, 92 H
Bryson Stott (UNLV): .352 AVG, 3 HR, 51 RBI, 72 R, 100 H, 17 2B, 26 SB
Dustin Woodcock (SIUE): .318 AVG, 10 HR, 61 RBI, 18 2B, 57 R, 78 hits, 53 BB
Charlie McConnell (Northeastern): .327 AVG, 66 H, 50 R, 21 SB, 20 RBI
Jake Guenther (Sacramento City): .284 AVG, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 65 H, 43 BB
Nick Anderson (Texas A&M Corpus Christi): .284 AVG, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 67 H, 70 GS, 44 BB
Notable Pitching Leaders:
Jesse Slinger (Lock Haven): 8-1, 2.71 ERA, 63 IP, 31 K, 10 GS
Jack Eagan (Madison College): 7-0, 3.08 ERA, 61.1 IP, 66 K, 12 GS
Isaiah Carranza (Oregon): 6-0, 2.73 ERA, 46 IP, 44 K, 6 GS
Cameron Busby (Belmont Abbey): 26 APP, 1.53 ERA, 41.0 IP, 34 K
Layne Henderson (Azusa Pacific): 24 APP, 1.42 ERA, 25.1 IP, 5 H, 49 K, 18 SV
Mason McReaken (SIUE): 18 APP, 1.61 ERA, 39 IP, 49 K