Season-Long Excellence Pushes TCL’s Bombers To No. 1 Ranking

By: Allan Simpson - Perfect Game
By: Allan Simpson - Perfect Game

From start to finish in 2013, the Brazos Valley Bombers dominated the Texas Collegiate League.

The Bryan, Texas-based club opened the TCL campaign with eight straight wins and 15 victories in their first 16 contests, and closed it with seven wins in their last eight games, climaxed by a 7-5 win over the Victoria Generals that resulted in their first TCL championship.

Not only did the Bombers put the finishing touch on a record-breaking season with their final triumph, but national implications were also at stake as it put them in position to finish atop Perfect Game’s final ranking of the nation’s top 50 summer league clubs. When the four teams ranked ahead of the Bombers bit the dust in their respective league playoffs, a mythical national title was theirs for the taking.

“The Bombers are truly honored to be ranked No. 1 in the country,” said an ecstatic Uri Geva, the Bombers club president. “This is an amazing accomplishment for our coaching staff and players. We are thrilled to be the first Texas Collegiate League champion to win the national championship from Perfect Game, an incredible achievement.”

Ranked No. 2 in Perfect Game’s initial weekly ranking in mid-June, the Bombers were the only summer-league club to hold down a spot in the top five all season. They never reached No. 1, though, until the final ranking as the Cape Cod League’s Chatham Anglers spent five weeks in the top spot and the Cotuit Kettleers, the eventual Cape champion, occupied that position on two other occasions. In the final in-season ranking, the Northwoods League’s Waterloo Bucks surged into the No. 1 spot.

Both Chatham and Waterloo, however, failed to reach the championship series in their respective league playoffs, as did Falmouth (Cape Cod) and Edenton (Coastal Plain), the two other teams ranked ahead of Brazos Valley in the stretch run. And that opened the door for the Bombers (49-15 on the season) to slip into the top spot.

Cotuit (31-20) finished No. 2 behind the Bombers, while the fast-charging Corvallis Knights (46-17), winners of their last 14 games which propelled them to the West Coast League title, surged into the No. 3 spot.

For all the on-field success the Bombers enjoyed this summer, their magical season almost went up in smoke in the third and deciding game of the TCL championship game as Victoria jumped out to an early 5-1 lead. But stellar relief pitching by the duo of Texas A&M righthanders Jason Freeman and Parker Ray stymied the Generals the rest of the way, while the Bombers exploded for six runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead for good at 7-5.

Freeman fanned 10 in 4 2/3 innings of middle relief, while Ray closed things out, fanning three of the four hitters he faced in his only relief appearance of the season.

Ray, who went 4-0, 1.69 in six regular-season starts, had opened the playoffs for Brazos Valley four days earlier by beating defending TCL champion East Texas 6-0 in a dominating five-hit, 1-walk, 14 strikeout effort.

“When Parker Ray steps on the mound, he takes ownership of the game,” said a Texas-based major-league scout who watched the Bombers on a nightly basis over the latter half of the 2013 season. “When (Bombers coach Curt Dixon) brought him in with two outs in the eighth, you knew it was over.”

While Ray was instrumental in the Bombers playoff success, much of the team’s success over the course of a long summer season was credited to Dixon, an assistant coach at Eastern Oklahoma State College during the school year.

“We have had the best record in the TCL the last two seasons, and the credit for our growing success on the field goes to Curt and his entire coaching staff,” Geva said. “They have worked to ensure we have the best possible talent, while keeping the players motivated to go out there and have fun, staying calm throughout any situation on the field.

“This Bombers team came back from being down 11-2 in the eighth inning and winning a game in extra innings, and won the championship after being down 5-1 in the middle of the fifth. Coach Dixon did a phenomenal job of putting together a great group of players that never quit, molding them into a true team that goes out there and plays their hearts out, every night of the year.”

The major-league scout concurred, and says Dixon was a difference-maker in the Bombers season-long success.

“Even down 5-1, they showed resiliency in clawing back. They'd bend but wouldn't break. After the last-out fly ball to center field and the dog pile—both joy they won and the season finally done—there was some genuine exchanges between players that lasted a long time, which I'll give the manager the credit for creating that environment. The fan support was tremendous, and the place exploded on the last out like they won the World Series. Very, very entertaining.”

A year ago, the Bombers posted the best overall record in the TCL after a torrid second half, but lost in excruciating fashion at Victoria in a one-game divisional series, when they failed to hold a 7-3 lead going into the ninth as the Generals won 8-7 victory in 11 innings.

This year, the Bombers lapped the field in the TCL during the regular season, winning a league record 46 games, but an elusive title was still missing until their stunning Game 3 comeback.

"This win was an exclamation point," Dixon told the local Bryan-College Station Eagle. “There's been a lot of firsts we've been doing, but we haven't won a championship. We've won the first half, won the second half, set the overall record, broke into the top five (PG’s national summer poll).

“I guess this is what you say is the elephant in the room we haven't been able to get, and that is the championship.”

Perfect Game’s national ranking of summer college-league clubs are determined on the following criteria: won-loss record, league dominance, depth and quality of professional-level talent and the overall strength of the league. Emphasis is given to teams that win league championships, but a strong regular-season showing is also weighted heavily. Teams must have at least a .500 record overall to earn consideration.

Rank Team St League Record
1 Brazos Valley Bombers TX Texas Collegiate League 49-15
League champion
2 Cotuit Kettleers MA Cape Cod League 31-20
League champion
3 Corvallis Knights OR West Coast League 46-17
League champion
4 Waterloo Bucks IA Northwoods League 51-21
Regular-season champion (North)
5 Chatham Anglers MA Cape Cod League 28-19
Regular-season champion (East)
6 Edenton Steamers NC Coastal Plain League 43-14
Regular-season champion (East)
7 Falmouth Commodores MA Cape Cod League 27-20
Regular-season champion (West)
8 Alaska Goldpanners AK Alaska League 37-17
League champion
9 Amsterdam Mohawks NY Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League 45-18
League champion
10 Madison Mallards WI Northwoods League 45-30
League champion
11 Orleans Firebirds MA Cape Cod League 28-22
12 Winter Park Diamond Dawgs FL Florida Collegiate League 30-13
League champion
13 Keene Swamp Bats NH New England Collegiate League 33-20
League champion
14 Peninsula Pilots VA Coastal Plain League 39-24
League champion
15 West Virginia Miners WV Prospect League 42-22
League champion
16 Newport Gulls RI New England Collegiate League 35-16
Regular-season champion (East)
17 Santa Barbara Foresters CA California Collegiate League 36-18
Regular-season champion (North)
18 Palm Springs Power CA Southern California Collegiate League 46-5
League champion
19 Danville Dans IL Prospect League 41-21
Regular-season champion (West)
20 Hyannis Harbor Hawks MA Cape Cod League 26-19
21 Lakeshore Chinooks WI Northwoods League 45-28
22 Licking County Settlers OH Great Lakes League 29-17
League champion
23 Harrisonburg Turks VA Valley League 32-14
Regular-season champion (South)
24 L.A. Brewers CA California Collegiate League 29-14
League champion
25 Bethesda Big Train MD Cal Ripken Sr League 32-16
Regular-season champion
26 Humboldt Crabs CA Far West League 41-14
League champion
27 Martha's Vineyard Sharks MA Futures League 39-18
League champion
28 Asheboro Copperheads NC Coastal Plain League 35-20
Regular-season champion (West)
29 Clarinda A's IA MINK League 36-17
League champion
30 Hays Larks KS Jayhawk League 33-13
League champion
31 La Crosse Loggers WI Northwoods League 43-27
32 Harwich Mariners MA Cape Cod League 24-21
33 Baltimore Redbirds MD Cal Ripken Sr League 29-19
League champion
34 Columbia Blowfish Sel Coastal Plain League 35-24
35 Mat-Su Miners AK Alaska League 24-17
36 Top Speed Baseball CA Far West League 42-14
37 Wellington Heat KS Jayhawk League 26-16
NBC World Series runner-up
38 San Luis Obispo Blues CA California Collegiate League 39-21
39 Duluth Huskies MN Northwoods League 45-29
40 Leesburg Lightning FL Florida Collegiate League 27-15
41 Walla Walla Sweets WA West Coast League 36-24
Regular-season champion (North)
42 Bourne Braves MA Cape Cod League 24-24
43 Waynesboro Generals VA Valley League 28-24
League champion
44 North Fork Ospreys NY Atlantic Collegiate League 26-20
League champion
45 Nashua Silver Knights NH Futures League 36-21
46 Oneonta Outlaws NY New York Collegiate League 29-16
League champion
47 Youse's Maryland Orioles MD Cal Ripken Sr League 31-21
AAABA World Series champion
48 Anchorage Bucs AK Alaska League 24-17
49 Alameda Merchants CA Golden State College League 31-13
League champion
50 Wenatchee Applesox WA West Coast League 33-27

OTHERS RECEIVING CONSIDERATION (Alphabetical): Acadiana Cane Cutters, Alexandria Aces, Allentown Railers, Atlanta Crackers, Baltimore Chop, Bend Elks, El Dorado Broncos, Fulton Railroaders, Kernersville Bulldogs, Lake Norman Copperheads, Long Beach Legends, Mankato MoonDogs, Medicine Hat Mavericks, Melville Millionaires, Mohawk Valley Diamondogs, Mooresville All-Americans, Nevada Griffons, New Market Rebels, North Jersey Eagles, Ocean State Waves, Quincy Gems, Rowan Patriots, San Diego Force, Southern Ohio Copperheads, Vermont Mountaineers, Victoria Generals, Watertown Rams, Westhampton Aviators, Willmar Stingers, Wilmington Sharks


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