WATERLOO, IOWA- The Waterloo Bucks showed improvement in 2017 increasing the win total by three games compared to the previous season. Although the Bucks missed the postseason with an overall record of 39-33, they were in the playoff hunt until the final game of the regular season. Milestone victories such as overall (playoffs included) franchise victory number 800 and 800 regular season wins were captured in the thrilling 2017 campaign.
Several players such as Drew Greenwood, Ben Sellers, Nathan Walker, Jay Schuyler, Jared Crescentini and Brandon Downey were with the Bucks since opening day while finishing a complete season in Waterloo. In fact, Schuyler made history for being just one of two players to appear in all 72 Northwoods League regular season games since the NWL switched to a 72-game format in 2014.
Over the course of the season, the Bucks had several honors from the Northwoods League including Player of the Night on June 2 when Zach Malis was just a triple away from the cycle in an 11-2 thumping of the Duluth Huskies. A few weeks later in Duluth on June 23, Joe Genord clubbed three home runs in a single game to lift the Bucks to a 12-7 victory while being named NWL Player of the Night. Genord went on to hit a team-high eight homers and represented Waterloo in the NWL Home Run Derby. In the same road trip in Thunder Bay on June 25, Anthony Ruden who made 11 starts for the Bucks with a 4-2 record spun six innings without an earned run with six strikeouts to earn NWL Pitcher of the Night.
All-Star pitcher Kyle Leahy earned the Pitcher of the Night honor twice on June 13 and June 19 for a pair of complete game gems. Schuyler was also selected as a 2017 NWL All-Star along with reliever Brandon Downey who was an All-Star in back-to-back seasons. Genord represented the Bucks in the NWL All-Star Game Home Run Derby.
The Bucks were at the top of the North Division standings for a majority of the first half with the help of a nine-game winning streak but fell a game short of claiming the first half title and clinching a playoff spot when the St. Cloud Rox won the half on July 4.
The second half was not as kind to the Bucks following up a 24-12 first half record with a 15-21 second half that was full of roster moves with players coming and going. Outfield additions such as Tyler Stover, Brandon Gutzler and Charlie Concannon provided pop to the lineup when they were in uniform. Ryan Garcia settled in the mound while racking up 52 strikeouts and Jared Crescentini was reliable in his league leading 14 starts. Ryan Dunne had several roles including starter and closer but settled into a starting role at the end of the season collecting, 15 strikeouts in his last two games.
Another key contributor for the Bucks at the plate, Deion Thompson, was a key part of Waterloo's most dramatic win of the season on July 30 at Riverfront Stadium against Bismarck. The Bucks trailed the Larks 10-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth but rallied to score nine unanswered runs in the final two innings to win in walk-off fashion 11-10 capped off by two-run double by Thompson.
One thing that the Bucks were known for in 2017 was aggressive base running including ranking second in the NWL in stolen bases with 123. Anthony Warneke was added late to the Bucks middle infield and in the final game of the season, he pulled off the rare feat of stealing home.
Malis was the consistent bat in the lineup all season and was rewarded for it by being selected to the NWL Major League Dreams Showcase in Madison, Wisconsin on August 8 to show off his skills to MLB scouts. He was also voted by the Waterloo Bucks Season Ticket Holders as the Bucks Player of the Year.
Although the Bucks were left just barely on the outside looking in on the playoff scene, Scott Douglas and his coaching staff in their second season at the helm finished the season strong by winning four out of the last five contests setting the table for more improvement in 2018.
The Waterloo Bucks are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 160 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.waterloobucks.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Bucks as your favorite team.