2021 Great Plains East Champions Waterloo Bucks Enjoy Historic Summer in the Cedar Valley
The Great Plains East Champion Waterloo Bucks’ 2021 season will certainly stand as one of the finest in franchise history. Guided by first-year field manager Ryan Gaynor, the Bucks went 42-25 in the regular season, won both the First and Second Half Great Plains East Championships then went on to win their first postseason games since 2002 in a Subdivisional sweep of the Duluth Huskies. First baseman Garrett McGowan (Pittsburg State), lefthanded pitcher Ryan Duffy (St. Cloud State) and outfielder Max Jung-Goldberg (San Diego) earned trips to the Northwoods League All-Star Game while shortstop Josh Kasevich (Oregon) joined McGowan and Jung-Goldberg as Postseason All-Stars. Kasevich, Jung-Goldberg, righthanders Duncan Davitt (Iowa) and Michael Mitchell (UC-San Diego) along with southpaw Brycen Mautz (San Diego) and catcher Johnny Tincher (Washington) represented Waterloo in the Major League Dreams Showcase.
Waterloo’s bats finished the regular season on top of the Northwoods, producing the second-highest scoring season in franchise history and leading the league in batting average (.277), runs scored (461), runs per game (6.91) and on-base percentage (.388) while landing second in both run differential (+136) and OPS (.749). Jung-Goldberg was named Waterloo Bucks Player of the Year after batting .339 in the regular season, clubbing eight doubles and four home runs while driving in 38 and stealing 12 bases. McGowan became just the third Bucks player in franchise history to hit for the cycle on June 12 against Duluth.
Behind the plate, five catchers suited up for the Bucks in 2021 and provided incredible defensive stability. Emi Gonzalez (UC-San Diego) slashed .301/.404/.368 over 41 games with four doubles, a triple and a home run while knocking in 31 with an impressive 21:22 K:BB ratio. Defensively, Gonzalez committed just one error in 23 starts for a .995 fielding percentage and threw out 24.0% of opposing basestealers. Tincher flashed plus defensive tools, carrying a 39.1% caught stealing rate, allowed just 11 wild pitches for a 0.59% rate and handled the staff to a 3.39 ERA while he was behind the plate. The Washington product did not commit a single passed ball while hitting .286 with a pair of doubles and a .707 OPS at the plate.
Mike Campagna (San Francisco) played 30 games and belted seven doubles with 15 RBI while throwing out 24.1% of opposing runners. Fellow backstop Blaine Marchman (Georgia State) posted a 3.62 catcher ERA, a .702 OPS and 13 RBI in 15 starts while Tavan Shahidi (Clarke) rounded out the Bucks catchers by slashing .275/.423/.400 and knocking in nine.
The Bucks infield served as a showcase for talent in itself, led by Kasevich and McGowan. Oregon’s shortstop started 40 games for Waterloo, slashing .374/.403/.450 for an .854 OPS, blasting seven doubles and two home runs while driving in 39. Kasevich struck out in just 3.8% of his plate appearances and hit .444 with a .958 OPS with runners in scoring position. Defensively, Kasevich committed just four errors in 320.0 innings at short for a .977 fielding percentage and a 4.84 range factor. McGowan was perhaps one of the Northwoods’ most frightening hitters to face, crushing pitching to the tune of a .351/.399/.492 triple-slash, 12 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 42 RBI while swiping 10 bases.
Second base was anchored by a pair of returning Bucks in Jalen Smith (UC-San Diego) and Daniel Irisarri (Nova Southeastern). Smith batted .289 with 41 runs scored, seven doubles, 26 RBI and a 17:31 K:BB ratio while Irisarri posted a monster first half by slashing .320/.447/.493 for a .940 OPS. Liam Critchett (Loyola Marymount) provided stability at first base, DH and the corner outfield spots with a .798 OPS, seven doubles and three home runs; while two-way third baseman Cameron Repetti (Cal State-Fullerton) slashed .288/.405/.364 for a .769 OPS.
Jung-Goldberg anchored the outfield alongside speedsters Chris Seng (Louisville) and Sam Biller (Loyola Marymount). Seng played in 55 games and reached base at a .397 clip, scoring 51 runs and going 31-for-31 on stolen bases while playing a perfect centerfield, committing zero errors in 442.1 innings with three outfield assists and a 2.32 range factor. Biller posted a .679 OPS while scoring 20 runs, collecting five doubles, a triple and a home run with 22 RBI. The Loyola-Marymount commit stole 19 bases while playing all three outfield spots. Second-half arrival Jackson Lyon (Cal State-Fullerton) slashed .280/.360/.520 for an .880 OPS, leading Waterloo with five home runs and piling up 19 RBI in 20 games played. First-half rightfielder Gabe Garcia (Air Force) anchored the early heart-of-the-order by hitting .328 with a .418 on-base percentage, while Paul Steffensen (St. Cloud State) gave the Bucks stability in both the early season and the postseason with a .255/.348/.362 triple-slash, five doubles, 20 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
The Bucks pitching staff paired well with their league-leading lineup, posting the fourth-lowest ERA in the Northwoods. Davitt went 5-2 with a 2.84 ERA across 11 starts, chartering 57.0 innings with a 1.30 WHIP and a 61:23 K:BB ratio, leading the staff in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. The Iowa righthander held batters to a .239 average while striking out 24.4% of those he faced. Duffy, the Bucks’ All-Star southpaw, allowed just one earned run across 27.2 innings and five starts. Heading to St. Cloud State following his final year at Minnesota, Duffy pitched to a 0.33 ERA with a 2-1 record and a 26:15 K:BB ratio, holding batters to a .189 BAA and a .532 OPS against. Opening Day starter Harrison Cook (Michigan State) started five games and pitched to a 1.25 ERA while fellow first half rotation anchor Blake Corsentino (Kansas State) won two of his five starts and posted a 3.29 FIP across 21.0 innings. Repetti started four games and went 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA, covering 28.1 innings and holding a pristine 22:6 K:BB ratio. Harrison Durow (Trinity) started nine games and earned three wins, striking out 41 batters and limiting hitters to a .250 average. Mitchell rounded things out as the second half ace, going 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA over 25.0 innings while striking out 30 and walking just six batters.
Waterloo’s bullpen served as one of the most impressive units in the Northwoods League, going a combined 23-9 with a 3.86 ERA across 303.1 innings, striking out 326 batters and holding hitters to a .234/.353/.317 triple-slash for a .670 OPS against. Key members of the Bucks Pen included Cal Poly closer Zach Button (17 APP, 1.77 FIP, 15.0 IP, 6 SV, 19:5 K:BB), Georgia State power arm Camren Landry (16 APP, 2.00 ERA, 36.0 IP, 51 K), Glendale College flamethrower Aaron Treloar (2-1, 18 APP, 2.84 ERA, 25.1 IP, 2 SV, 4 HD, 37 K, .128 BAA), Dubuque fireman Jordan Nelson (4-1, 7 APP, 1.85 ERA, 24.1 IP, SV, 24:8 K:BB), the hard-throwing Mautz (12 APP, 2.37 ERA, 30.1 IP, 3 SV, 29 K), Hawaii righties Blaze Pontes (7 APP, 1.93 ERA, 18.2 IP, 19:6 K:BB) and Cameron Hagan (3-1, 12 APP, 3.52 ERA, 30.2 IP, 36 K), St. Cloud State leverage arm Eli Emerson (5-1, 15 APP, 20.2 IP, 15 K), Bethune-Cookman weekend arm Nolan Santos (2-0, 8 APP, 2.25 ERA, 20.0 IP, 18 K) and Stevens Tech closer Anthony Pron (1-0, 7 APP, 1.65 ERA, 16.1 IP, 18:3 K:BB).