By Colby Talley
Waterloo, IA – Between a 21-win improvement from last season, four All-Star selections and a second half that saw this team mold into one of the most formidable squads in the Great Plains, the Waterloo Bucks’ 2023 season was one fans won’t soon forget.
Despite falling just short of a playoff spot, field manager Darrell Handelsman’s first season back at the helm for the Bucks, after being with the team from 1999 to 2002, came with plenty of big moments.
Handelsman, in just the fifth game of the 2023 season, surpassed Bucks great Eric Snider for the team’s all-time managerial wins record with a 16–14 victory over the Thunder Bay Border Cats. With the Bucks finishing the 2023 season with a 37–31 overall record, Handelsman’s win count with the Bucks now sits at 196 across his two tenures.
The Bucks got off to a cold start, finishing the first half with a 14–20 record. However, Waterloo turned the corner in the second half, winning 11 of their first 12 games and going on a nine-game win streak. Even as they began to cool off, the Bucks remained near the top of the second half standings for the rest of the season, only officially falling out of playoff contention in the final week of the year.
Despite no longer playing for a postseason spot, the Bucks continued their winning ways up until the end, closing out the season with a 3–1 homestand. This included a 14–13 barnburner against the Mankato MoonDogs in the 67th game of the year that saw the Bucks score four runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull out their final win of the season.
The Bucks had several accolades collected by their individual players. Four players on Waterloo’s roster were voted to the Great Plains All-Star Game: starting pitcher Aaron Savary, relief pitcher Chaney Trout, relief pitcher Sam Skarich and outfielder Cole Hill.
Savary, an Iowa native who pitched for the University of Iowa this past spring, also finished the season with a nod for the Postseason All-Star Team, the only Buck to receive the honor. Savary’s best game of the season, a game that just so happened to fall on his birthday, came on the road against the MoonDogs where he gave up just two earned runs while striking out nine batters across seven innings pitched.
One fascinating story for the team was first baseman Marcus Heusohn, who started the season 3-for-44 at the plate but rebounded massively to put up a .287 batting average and eventually became the team’s everyday starter at first base. This big midseason resurgence led to Bucks season ticket holders voting Heusohn as the 2023 Waterloo Bucks Player of the Year.
The Bucks also had plenty of players end the season on their all-time single season leaderboards. Most notably, Heusohn and outfielder Michael Lippe, who finished third and first in the league in walks, both ended the season in the top ten of the Bucks’ all-time single season walks leaderboard. Lippe, who ended the season with a league-leading 56 walks, is now fifth on the list, while Heusohn finished the season with 53 walks and is right behind him at sixth.
Infielder Brandon Fish finished the season tied for fourth in the league in RBIs with 56 runs batted in through 63 games. This puts Fish at fourth on the Bucks all-time single season RBI list.
Finally, the Bucks’ aforementioned all-star outfielder Cole Hill, while not placing himself on an all-time list for the team, did come within spitting distance of the single season doubles record with 17 on the year.
The last important thing to note about this season was the consistent fan support the team received at Riverfront Stadium. In a season that saw league-wide attendance records, Bucks fans showed up in droves every night to support their local team and proved why they’re among the best fanbases in the league. The highest attendance number the team had this year was during the final game of the year against the MoonDogs when more than 2,100 fans packed into the stands.
We thank you all for your support this season and we can’t wait to welcome you back to Riverfront Stadium in 2024!