Labor Day brought the end of the 140 game regular season for full season minor league baseball. 2016 was a rough season for the KC Royals minor league affiliates (none of the four finished over .500), but there was an exciting end for Double-A NW Arkansas.
Down to the final game of the regular season, the Naturals entered the day tied with Arkansas, with the winner being crowned the second half champion of the North Division in the Texas League. Lose and the offseason begins. It was made possible when the Naturals walked off in extra innings to tie the Travelers on Sunday night.
The slumping Naturals offense did not wait around to get to work, as they scored three runs in the first en route to their 8-0 victory to set off the celebration. The middle of the Naturals order: Mauricio Ramos, Ryan O’Hearn, and Frank Schwindel went a combined 7-for-16 with three doubles, three runs scored, and seven RBIs.
Starter Josh Staumont pitched his best game of the season, allowing four hits and walking just two over six scoreless innings. He struck out 12. Staumont threw 65 of his 91 pitches for strikes.
The Naturals will begin their postseason run to repeat as North Division champions on Wednesday night at Springfield. They are the only Royals full season affiliate to make the playoffs, finishing the second half with a 36-34 record (65-75 overall).
Triple-A Omaha ended the season on a four-game losing streak, losing at home to Pacific Coast League American Northern Division champion OKC, 10-8.
Six home runs were hit in the game. Jake Junis took the loss in his sixth start in Triple-A. He allowed seven runs on 11 hits over five innings.
The Storm Chasers pounded out 15 hits, with Jorge Bonifacio going 3-for-5. Balbino Fuenmayor collected two hits to ended his season hitting a very respectable .291. Ramon Torres, Angel Franco, and Parker Morin each had two hits in the loss. Torres hit a two-run homer in the 2nd inning (just his second of the season).
Outfielder Brandon Downes, who made his Triple-A debut September 1st, went 1-for-5. He finished his season with High-A Wilmington becoming their all-time leader in strikeouts with 170.
Omaha finished the season just 58-82.
Speaking of High-A Wilmington, they finished the season with a loss at Frederick. They finished the second half in dead last in the Carolina League Northern Division with a 27-42 record (54-84 overall).
The Blue Rocks lost their season finale to Frederick, 6-3. Catcher Luis Villegas hit two home runs, giving him five with the Blue Rocks, and 25 RBIs in 43 games. Villegas also finished tops on the team in batting average at .276. Mike Hill had three hits in the loss.
Infielder John Brontsema, who made his full season debut on September 3rd (up from the AZL Royals as a 2016 draft pick) went 1-for-4 in the loss. He played both second base and shortstop, going 3-for-12 overall.
Starter Matt Tenuta took the loss, dropping his record to 7-11. He allowed all six runs on nine hits over six innings while striking out five. Five of the runs scored via two home runs. Lefty reliever Sam Selman ended the season on a high note, allowing just one hit while striking out three in two scoreless innings. He threw 22 of his 31 pitches for strikes.
Low-A Lexington ended the season with a 3-2 loss at Hickory. The Legends finished the second half in dead last in the South Atlantic League Southern Division with a 27-43 record (52-87 overall and worst in SAL).
The Legends collected six hits, three from DJ Burt, who finished the season with a .257 batting average. He also stole two bases to give him 43 on the season (second in the SAL).
Gerson Garabito was the hard luck loser, dropping to 2-11. He allowed three runs (two earned though he committed the error and there was a passed ball) on four hits and a walk over six innings.
*I used to mention shortstop Marten Gasparini‘s errors when I wrote daily recaps, so I figured I would mention that he committed his 48th error on Sunday.