The record shows a different story from how much fun Logan Wheelan had playing summer ball in Ottawa.
The Ottawa River Bandits collegiate wood bat baseball team ended its first season Thursday. An 8-3 loss in Belton, Missouri against the playoff-bound Midwest A’s sunk Ottawa to a final record of 4-25, last place in the Mid-Plains League. However, despite the ups and downs faced by the league’s newest team, Wheelan had nothing but good things to say.
“The experience has been great,” the Ottawa University pitcher said Wednesday. “I didn’t expect the Mid-Plains League to pull out all the stops they had. It has been very organized and very fun.”
Wheelan spoke after nearly tossing a complete game in a 5-4 home win against the Baldwin City Blues at Alumni Park, 624 E. 11th St., Ottawa. He allowed two runs through 8 1/3 innings pitched to pick up the win. Merrick Brown, OU catcher, caught the game.
“Everything was working,” Wheelan said. “[I was] hitting my spots and not giving them anything to hit.”
The Bandits built on an early lead in the fifth inning when Trenton Ferguson, Barton County Community College outfielder/pitcher, hit a two-out grounder that was bobbled by the Blues third baseman, allowing Nate Palcher, OU infielder, to score from third. Ferguson came around to score on a wild pitch, and Ottawa led 4-2.
The team struck again in the bottom of the eighth when Reece Skiles, OU infielder, drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk on four pitches to score Kaleb Shaffer. That gave Ottawa a 5-2 lead heading into the ninth.
Tate Jackson came on to relieve Wheelan with one out in the ninth. He was worked into a bases-loaded, one-out jam and allowed two runs on two wild pitches. With the tying run on third, Jackson came back with a big strikeout to get the save.
Ottawa nearly upset the MPL East Division regular season champions in Thursday’s season finale. The team tied the game 2-2 with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth. The A’s retook the lead in the seventh with a run, and Ottawa matched it in the top of the eighth. A five-run bottom of the frame for Midwest was the difference.
Tyler Henry, Kansas City Kansas Community College outfielder, and Brandon Miller, OU infielder, each had a pair of hits for Ottawa. Jacob Pryor, Allen County Community College first baseman, capped off a strong summer season with an RBI. Lucas Dwyer, OU pitcher/infielder, tossed 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and striking out two.
Though the Bandits will not be playing in the postseason (top two teams from the MPL East and West Divisions advance), Alex Lownes, Ottawa manager, said the team played hard all summer through the adversity.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was rough at times. It turned into guys being too hard on themselves, and guys got hurt at the beginning of the season. There were some days where we had 10 players just to get through a game, but we all bought in and pulled together.”