Inclement weather postponed three games, but the 2015 Midwest League season still got off to a memorable start thanks to some big player performances.
South Bend Cubs 2, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
The home opener at South Bend’s Four Winds Field would have been memorable regardless, thanks to fan excitement over the former Silver Hawks changing their MLB affiliation to the Chicago Cubs this past offseason. Over 7,000 fans showed up to set a new franchise record for Opening Day, and there was plenty of pomp and circumstance to show for it: Cubs president Theo Epstein threw out a ceremonial first pitch, the No. 14 jersey was retired in honor of late Cubs Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks, and an abundance of media was present to cover the event.
South Bend scored first on a solo homer by RF Jeffrey Baez in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Bowling Green answered back with a solo homer by CF Thomas Milone in the next frame. The score remained knotted 1-1 until South Bend 1B Cael Brockmeyer hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Pitching was excellent for both teams as the Hot Rods struck out 13 and the Cubs struck out nine. Bowling Green’s first two pitchers were particularly impressive: starter Brent Honeywell struck out six batters in four innings, and reliever Hunter Wood struck out seven in four innings. Wood didn’t give up a hit, but he walked three batters.
Burlington Bees 9, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 3
Bees SP Sean Newcomb was dominant and several Burlington players had memorable nights at the plate.
Newcomb, who started four games for the Bees late last season, showed why the Los Angeles Angels made him their first-round draft pick in 2014. The lefty gave up one run on two hits and two walks while striking out nine batters in five innings. Wisconsin’s lone run off Newcomb scored on an RBI triple by DH Jose Pena.
Bees DH Fran Whitten went 4-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI. Bees CF Michael Hermosillo drove in two runs and reached base in all five of his at-bats, twice on singles and three times on walks. Bees LF Caleb Adams and Timber Rattlers 1B David Denson each drew three walks.
Quad Cities River Bandits 7, Peoria Chiefs 3
The River Bandits capitalized on seven walks to erase an early 3-1 deficit, scoring six unanswered runs in the last six innings of the game.
River Bandits DH Sean McMullen hit a two-run homer and drove in a third run on a sacrifice fly. RP Kevin Comer got the win, striking out two in four scoreless innings.
Chiefs C Steve Bean went 0-for-4 at the plate, but threw out two would-be basestealers in the first inning. SP Jack Flaherty allowed one run and was removed with an undisclosed injury while warming up for the 4th inning.
Cedar Rapids Kernels 7, Kane County Cougars 2
Both starting pitchers struck out seven batters in 5.2 innings, but Kernels LHP Mat Batts was more effective than Cougars RHP Brent Jones. Batts gave up only one run on two hits and two walks, while Jones gave up three runs on three hits and three walks.
Five Kernels players each had two hits, including top Minnesota Twins SS prospect Nick Gordon, who also walked once and drove in a run; and RF Zack Larson, who also stole two bases and drove in a run.
Cougars CF Colin Bray doubled twice and drove in a run. Cougars DH Steve McQuail walked three times.