By: David Bork
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- The Midwest Collegiate League runners-up, the Bloomington Bobcats are looking to build off their 2017 success and look to do ever better in 2018.
The Bobcats, who were the fourth seed entering the MCL Playoffs, started off surprising the MCL and defeating the defending champion Northwest Indiana Oilmen in three game in the semifinals. Bloomington then took on the Southland Vikings in the MCL Championship. The Vikings had also made an upset in the semifinals, defeating the No. 2 seeded DuPage County Hounds in three games.
Bloomington is entering its third season in the MCL with improvements in every season. In 2016, the Bobcats went 19-22, finished in fourth place and made the MCL Playoffs before falling to the DuPage County Hounds. In 2017, Bloomington ended the regular season with a 28-23 record and again finished fourth.
Michael Brown, owner of the Bloomington Bobcats, said the team is going to be talented and will be ready to compete this season.
"We have a lot of new faces and some familar faces but we will be ready to perform," Brown said. "I am ready to get started; we came so close last year, we want to do better this season."
The Bobcats return seven players from their team a season ago. Outfielders Peyton Dillingham (Heartland CC), Addison Fugitt (Southern Illinois-Carbondale) look to improve from their 2017 campaign. Dillingham will look to play a full season for Bloomington after played in 15 games for the Bobcats, hitting .200, picking up eight hits, three RBI and nine runs scored. Fugitt played in 29 games for the Bobcats, hit .280, racked up 26 hits, with two double and one home run, driving in 22 RBI and 24 runs scored.
Ryan Bouwman (Central [Iowa]) appeared in 40 games for the MCL runner-up last season, posting .200 batting average with 21 hits, three doubles, three long balls, which was tied with the team lead, 17 RBI and 17 runs scored. Garrett Shea (Illinois Wesleyan) is a different story, he has been with the club since the start as Shea returns for his third season with the Bobcats. However, Shea only appeared in two games last season and hit a home run in a game against the Southland Vikings on May 31. In 2016, Shea hit .260, with 32 hits, 12 doubles, driving in 22 RBI and 17 runs scored.
Mitch Fairfield (Southern Illinois-Carbondale), Bloomington's top catcher, also returns to the team this season. Fairfield played in 34 games, hit .263, 30 hits, eight doubles, a home run, 16 RBI and 19 runs scored.
The Bobcats return three pitchers from a staff and bullpen that put up a 3.45 ERA, which led the MCL, and picked up 270 strikeouts, including their top pitcher Nick Brune, who went 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA, Brune pitched 45.2 innings and issued only nine walks and threw 45 strikeouts.
Zach Frey (Indiana State) is also returning and hoping to pick up some more starts this year, Frey only pitched 16.2 innings last season with a 1.68 ERA. Sam Gordon (Illinois Wesleyan) will look to enter the win column, despite an 0-5 record, Gordon picked up two saves, logged 27 innings of work, had a 2.07 ERA and threw 24 strikeouts.
Bloomington begins their 2018 season on Tuesday, May 29 as the Bobcats host the Northwest Indiana Oilmen starting at 6 p.m. CT. Bloomington will play a 50-game season.
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