BORDER CATS DROP SEASON FINALE
Cory Kay (Missouri State) celebrates a run scored as he reached base in four of five plate appearances in his final appearance in a Border Cats uniform. The third year Border Cat Outfielder had another steady year and is the 2nd Kay brother to play for the team. The Cats could not play spoiler in the season finale as they dropped a tight 9-7 decision to the Woodchucks, who clinched a playoff birth at TBaytel Park. (Photo Courtesy of James Mirabelli Photography).
The Thunder Bay Border Cats gave the Wisconsin Woodchucks a major scare as Wisconsin was looking for a playoff spot. Despite having the tying run on base and putting together a four run rally in the 9th the Border Cats could not stop the Woodchucks as Wisconsin won 9-7 in action at TBaytel Park. The game marked the end of the league's regular season. The Woodchucks will meet the league's number one team, the Lakeshore Chinooks in the first round of the playoffs.
For Thunder Bay it marked the end of a three year career for Border Cat Outfielder Cory Kay (Missouri State). Kay, the second of a trio of brothers to play for the ball club was a steady reliable outfielder who played 169 games for the club over 2012-14. Cory followed in the footsteps of his brother Brett who played two seasons of Shortstop (162 games) for Thunder Bay from 2011-12.
Cory and Brett have paved the youngest brother Gunnar (Dallas Baptist) to establish his own footprints in Thunder Bay. Gunnar made the starting rotation as a Freshman and managed 12 starts and 16 appearances overall. He was 2-4 with a 6.83 ERA, but showed great capability and raw talent that is worth keeping an eye on in the future.
On the pitching front the Border Cats had a rough season. The top four finishers in ERA did not finish the season with the ball club including two rotation starters, Ryan Powers (Miami-Ohio) and Zack Speer (Trinity University).
Nathan Aultman (Northwestern State) led the squad in ERA at 5.01, followed closely by Innings leader and versatile Pitcher Ben Allison (Belhaven University). Aultman and Allison were starters, however Aultman ended up a starter do to a shortage of pitching. Whereas Allison found his niche as a long reliever and also struckout 33, third most on the club. Allison led the team in wins with four, along with Devin McLemore (Winston Salem State). McLemore turned his season around and finished strong. He would lead the club in saves and strikeouts. Charles Thielmann (Kean University) and Yuji Suzuki (Concordia-St. Paul) both pitched complete games with Suzuki actually having two on the season.
The bullpen had tough goes this season. Michael Daley (Kean University) ended up a spot starter by the end but was reliable. The right hander was called upon 23 times on the season which was 2nd most season. Nathaniel Leon (St. Peter's University) showed as a specialty pitcher out of the bullpen and also had 23 appearances to match Daley. He was keyed on to get ground ball outs in tough situations. Reid Peavy (Northwestern University), Tyler McKee (Doane College) and Austin Griffie (Harford CC) all had limited appearances and were relied upon to pitch in tough situations, all showcasing great raw talent on the mound.
On the offensive side of the coin injuries cost the Border Cats an entire infield. The Outfield was led by Robb Paller a Sophomore out of Columbia University. Paller was the most under-rated player in the league. The Right/Leftfielder led the team in runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBI's and walks. Paller also had a .478 slugging percentage and a .391 on-base percentage all while tying the club record in most home runs in a season with 9, tying Tyler Duplantis' record from last year. Paller was joined by Left Fielder and All-Star, the steady, Tyler Rolland (Southern Illinois) who was second in runs scored and walks and third in on-base percentage. Centerfielder Jacob Robson (Mississippi State) played in only 19 games but stole 12 bases and led in on-base percentage. Kay meanwhile provided solid defense, timely hitting and showed the ability to run the basepaths effectively as the starter in center.
Third Baseman Adam Collins (Central Michigan) rejoined a fairly dependable infield. Collins who had a two week stint with Thunder Bay last year finished 2nd on the club with a .298 average and drove 22 in. He was paired late in the season with defensive dynamo Kyle Comer (Minnesota-Duluth).
Jordan Serena (Columbia University) started in Centerfield but ended up a phenomenal infielder in the middle for the Cats. He and Ty Blankmeyer (St. John's) provided great defense and had a couple of slumps and streaks at the dish. Serena despite an awful start showed everyone what he could do. On June 23, despite starting on a daily basis, had only 6 hits and a .094 average. June 24th turned and then he finished the season at .286 and had the third most RBI's at 30. He also led the team in stolen bases with 17 in 20 tries as the leadoff hitter for the Cats. Blankmeyer had his share of stuggles at the plate but ended the season strong in the last month of the season picking up his average by 50-60 points and providing the team with needed speed and run scoring. He had 17 runs driven in as well as 11 sacrifices to lead the team along with Kay.
Both Blankmeyer and Kay more than doubled the next best sacrificer, Sal Taormina (Kean University). Taormina and Nick Studer (Doane College) each had 14 doubles (2nd on the team), one long ball and combined for 58 RBI's on the season. They split time at First Base throughout the campaign. Both were fantastic output wise, hitting between the 4-6 spots in the order.
Studer was relied on to play not only first, but also third, outfield and Catcher. Studer split time with All-Star Christian Correa (Nicholls State) and Tyler Patterson (St. Cloud State). Correa led the club in average as the only hitter above .300 (.303). He also had 12 doubles, four homers (2nd on the club) and 29 driven in while second in slugging percentage. Not much could be found better out of a backstop while showing a proficiency for throwing out base stealers. Patterson had a rough July, mired in a 1-22 slump in limited playing time. But he stuck with it, kept putting in the work and when playing time came he was ready. Patterson hit .333 in the final two weeks of the season and along with Studer showed their versatility in the field.
Thunder Bay born 3B/SS Carter McEachern (Trinity University), MIF/3B Gabriel Hernandez (Boston College), MIF Kyle Hann (Mississippi State), and 2B/3B Nick Oberg (Coastal Carolina) all ended up playing less than 20 games as part of a full infield of injuries.
Overall the Border Cats under Manager Johnny Hernandez and Coaches Chris Fletcher and Chris Nastasi, improved from last years 19 wins to a 23-41 record. This was good for 8th in the nine team North Division, jumping the Alexandria Blue Anchors who finished ahead of Thunder Bay last year. The Border Cats also won the Superior Cup, the annual battle of Highway 61 between Thunder Bay and Duluth.