The Battle Creek Bombers capped of their most successful season in franchise history hoisting the Northwoods League Championship trophy at C.O. Brown Stadium as they were crowned winners of the Summer Collegiate World Series.
Without a doubt the most memorable season in Bombers history, the 2011 campaign began on uneven ground: a new GM (Brian Colopy), new field manager (Donnie Scott), new pitching coach (Brandon Higelin), new logos, new front office employees, and, of course, new players. After an abysmal 2010 season in which the Bombers finished 20-50, the team, and town, needed a new era to begin.
During the off-season, Colopy brought back hitting coach Thad Frame of Huntington University and together they assembled a lineup of veteran local standout talent mixed with younger players from big name schools . For the majority of the season, Battle Creek’s lineup consisted of players from Central Michigan University, Taylor University, Evansville University, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Texas-San Antonio, and Miami of Ohio.
The ultimate “player’s coach,” Scott brought major league playing experience and minor-league managing experience to his players, and the combination thrived. The Bombers jumped out to an early Southern Division lead, and didn’t lose a series until nearly three weeks into the regular season. The success continued, and after a down-to-the-wire race for the first-half championship, the Bombers clinched their playoff berth based on head-to-head records after tying Eau Claire and Green Bay for the best record.
Scott kept the team focused in the second half; eventually helping the Bomb Squad to a 2nd half championship and home field advantage in the divisional series against 2nd place finisher Green Bay. After finishing 30 games under .500 in 2010, the team finished the regular season 43-26, by far the best season in franchise history.
Battle Creek faced their Southern Division rival, Green Bay, in the Southern Division playoff, and the Bombers took the pennant in two straight games before doing the same in the Northwoods League Championship against the Northern Division’s Mankato Moondogs. Including the Championship win, the Bombers finished the 2011 season on an 11-game winning streak, and never lost more than three games in a row through the 73-game season.
With the Bombers 47-26 overall record, they officially completed the largest turnaround in the Northwoods Leagues 18 year history. The team improved their record by a dramatic 27 games in 2011. This blew out the former record of 19 set back in 1995 when the Kenosha Kroakers improved their 21-31 record to 40-18.
Scott claims all credit goes to his players, and it’s clear to see why he believes it: Bryce Redeker broke the previous team homerun record when he blasted 11 during the 2011 campaign(most of which came in Battle Creek, the league’s deepest field), Jordan Dean set records for hits (89), doubles, and at-bats, Danny Rockett bought in a franchise-high 53 RBIs, and Martinez finished second in the NWL in walks (53) blowing out the old team record.
Not only did Battle Creek see success on the field, attendances numbers reached an all time high at 1,176 fans a game in 2011. Compare that to last season’s 778 fans a game, attendance increased by a dramatic 49%. The last team to have such a large increase was the Madison Mallards in the 2003 season when they increase their attendance from 1,973 fans a game (in 2002) to 4,411 fans a game in 2003 (124% increase).
To relive the memorable “Worst to First” 2011 season through videos and photos you can go to BattleCreekBombers.com.