Architects Build Upon Last Year’s Success
With just four outs remaining in their season, the Architects were down 0-1 with the bases loaded. What looked like their best chance for scoring some runs had passed when the eventual series and USA MVP, Daniel Huffman, had struck out as the second batter sent down that inning. It came down to David Mowry. If the Mounties could get him out, they would stand a very good chance of demolishing the Architects’ plans to cap off their historic regular season with a championship.
As they had become known for throughout the season, they would deliver with two outs. Mowry smashed a hard single up the middle that scored two runs after Truman Dares beat the throw home. Chicago held onto and expanded that lead, winning the series and taking back-to-back championships, their fifth overall and third since winning in 2030.
It’s hard to imagine now, but the road to the 2034 championship really began the previous year. Much the same roster found themselves in fifth place in the USA on May 25 , 2033. Playoff odds at the time were 1.7% chance, the longest odds a team in the GLBL has overcome to make the playoffs. That team came back to make the wildcard and win it all. This year they wanted to prove that wasn’t a fluke did more than that.
By April 18 of this season, Chicago had claimed first and never looked back. A month later, they would have a 98% chance to make the playoffs which, oddly enough, was around the same time last season they held less than a 2% chance in 2033.
They held on to first the entire time, consistently flirting with a .700 win percentage during the first few months of the season. That consistency was key because it was enough to weather Milwaukee’s hot 18 game streak and still maintain a lead of 8 games. Shortly thereafter and for the rest of the season, the lead would remain in double digits and expand. In the last 37 games of the season, Chicago lost just 5 games and went on an 18 game winning streak themselves. The Architects set a new record of 107 wins in a single season, besting their own previous mark by 7 and finishing at 107-37.
While the team had several players who had career seasons, Alfredo Gutierrez won the Pitcher of the Year award and Daniel Huffman won the USA Lake Superior Best Player award. Gutierrez finished the season 15-2 with a 2.89 ERA. He gave up just 12 HR, walked 28 and struck out 109, earning a 4.5 WAR. Huffman had a triple slash of .328/417/.579. The SS had a ZR of +7.0 and led the team with 29 HR and 108 RBI. He also posted a 8.25 WAR, the 7th best in the last decade and 22nd ever in the GLBL.
Huffman remained the team leader in the postseason, hitting .451/.519/.683. Gutierrez struggled a bit, going 1-0 in 3 games with a 4 ERA. It would be a theme for Chicago’s struggling pitching and defense that showed some cracks against a hot Milwaukee offense in the first round. The more dominant Chicago offense was up to the task, though, and outpaced the Eagle’s scoring in five games to take the series.
Not unexpectedly, Hamilton proved a bit more defensive minded, but what may have been a surprise is that the Mounties took the seesaw series to 7, in one of the most riveting series ever in the GLBL. It went Chicago’s way, but Hamilton was within just a few outs of toppling the odds on favorites.
As we head into 2035, the Chicago Architects return with a mostly intact roster facing the challenge of becoming the first GLBL team to win three titles in a row.
What is it like to see a team win 18 in a row? What are the odds that a very good team could achieve that feat in a well balanced league? To further accentuate the oddity of it all, how likely is it that a team with a record of 27-31 just prior to the streak would be the team to achieve it?
Whatever the odds the Milwaukee Eagles defied them to win 18 straight in the middle of the 2034 season. The hot streak propelled the Eagles into second place, yet still trailing the Chicago Architects by 10 games after their three game losing streak on the heels of the big 18.
Duluth was victimized seven times during the streak to lead the four losing teams in the loss department. It was Traverse City, a loser three times between June 20-22, who finally put the knockout blow in place as they clobbered Milwaukee 12 to 4.
By all accounts this record may never be shattered. But, it is baseball and we know that records are made to be broken. Congrats to those Eagles for entertaining the GLBL with their dazzling display of winning baseball.
For the fourth consecutive season, and sixth of seven, the USA has prevailed in GLBL championship series. The Chicago Architects won their 4th title as a Wild Card against a game Kingston Comet squad that was looking for their third championship ring.
The story behind the Architect season is best described by their own GM, Alex.
On April 26 last season, we were 7 games back of TC (6-13). We stopped losing ground at that point, at least for a bit, TC, MIL, and even TOL (though that may have been earlier) traded places. However, by late May, we were down 12 games to TC and 7 games out of 2nd. While our winning percentage had improved, we had lost ground.
Early June, around June 2nd, we started to turn things around, beating TOL in a series by taking 2 of 3. MIL beat them in the next series. Those two series were key, pulling them back to the pack. A 6-0 run the next week and we had passed Duluth and tied MIL. However, Milwaukee took two of three in the next series, so by June 15, TC was in command of first by 6 games while MIL, CHI, and TOL were all within a game or so, but MIL held 2nd.
Interestingly, I looked back and saw that I had trade discussions the first week of June (before the 6-0 run) about my relievers, Swaneveld, and Whip Charles. Luckily, no offers came of that at that point to make me pull the trigger (I was looking for more as I knew that probably meant throwing in the towel). I even saw a PM to a GM about holding off after my 6-0 run as things had changed.
July 7th, after a sweep of MIL, all three of us (TOL, MIL, CHI) were tied, while TC was 6 games in front. After a 7 game win streak that ended July 18th, we found ourselves two games ahead of MIL and TOL for the first time in the season. TC maintained a 4 game hold on first. TC extended their lead over us by beating us in the next series, but we wouldn’t relinquish 2nd place and a 7 game win streak in early August made it a two team race.
We finished within two of TC and the rest is history, but it was definitely a long path back. And while I was confident I had a good team, it definitely wasn’t a sit and wait situation, iirc. I benched Swaneveld against RHP to get a better defensive option in (since neither were really hitting), kicked Rowsell from the rotation for Sabin, swapped out my 4th OF (who gets a lot of ABs against all the LHP in the US) and traded for 2B Benincasa to bolster IF defense and hoped he could swing a bat.
All Star shortstop Daniel Huffman led Chicago in WAR with 4.6
The Traverse City Bears making their only their second post-season appearance in team history made the most of the opportunity. The Bears finished first in the USA, another first for the club. When Toledo closed out the regular season by besting the Architects in the added game, it set the stage for more dramatics.
The Bears had most observers thinking it would be a short series when they went up three games to none. But, the Neptunes had were not going to go quietly. They reeled off three straight wins and led in Game 7 before the never say die Bears rallied to take the USA title.
But, Traverse City only had half the job complete. They had to face on of strongest teams in recent league history, the Toronto Maples. The Maples took first place hardly breaking a sweat. They then discarded the Kingston Comets, a pretty hot team at the time, in four straight.
So, you will forgive the GLBL fans for thinking it was all but over when the Maples took the first two games in Toronto. Little did anyone know at the time, that an amazing rally was waiting in the wings. The Bears ripped off four straight W’s clinching in Toronto in game six.
Jim Riordan had a .948 OPS for the Bears in 2032 and was a major contributor to the success of the team.
The Neptunes won their second championship, the hard way. Winners of the Wild Card of the USA, they faced off against the previous years champs, the Chicago Architects who were gunning for their 4th title. Chicago’s most impressive 100-44 record made them prohibitive favorites.
Despite being 9-15 against the Architects, the Neptunes had a little something to say about who would face the other ‘beast’ coming out of Canada, the Toronto Maples. Toledo, 90-54 for the third consecutive year, took the series in 6 games and then got ready for the next challenge.
The 96-48 Maples, just 2 years removed from their first and only championship, were the odds on favorite to prevail in the series. The teams split the regular season series 2-2, but it was Toledo who would for the second time in the post-season defeat a team with a better record.
The Neptunes had 5 LHP in the rotation but it was Dean Floyd (14-3) and Derrill Dougherty (15-8) who did the heavy lifting.
Jesus Sanchez led all batters on the team with a .341 average.
Bill Atteberry inks his name in the record book for second time in GLBL history.
It took 15 years for the Toronto Maples to reach the Great Lakes Baseball League Championship Series, their last and only first place finish was in 2019. And then, they were brushed aside by the Windsor Vigilantes. That Toronto team won 80 games and lost 60. In 2021 and 2022 the Maples reached 81 wins narrowly missing first place in the Canadian League. But, each time the club failed to advance to the finals.
The year 2029 was the culmination of an improved regular season record for the 4th consecutive year as the Maples finished 91-53 and were never seriously challenged for first place all year long. The top two teams in the GLBL met for the championship as the Toledo Neptunes were gunning for back to back championships, having won their only title the year before.
Colin Miller (12-3) and and Scott Churchill (18-5) were a highly effective one, two punch most of the season. Miller, acquired from the perennially strong pitching Kingston franchise was outstanding at keeping the ball in the park as his .2 HR/G average led the league. He didn’t stop there, as his 1.2 BB/G led the league in that department. Churchill’s 2.36 ERA was league best as was his 18 win total.
If we’re looking for one two punches on offense, no one could be faulted for selecting two of their outfielders, Whip Charles and Clyde Benson. Whip had a 7.3 WAR and Benson finished at 7.1. Of course, the two didn’t carry the offensive load by themselves as Serge Thibault (.923 OPS) was a huge force in the line up. Nelson Wooten struck out 103 times but then he batted in a team leading 109 RBI’s. Before the editor gets a hold of this paragraph let me just amend that one/two punch to the one through 4 knockout blow. This team crushed opposing pitchers.
The final series saw a game Toledo squad come up short as the Maples, in 6 games, claimed their first championship rewarding GM Martin Abrams for his due patience and diligence with the trophy.
When you have a team with the best starting pitchers, relievers, batting average, and defense, it’s hard to be surprised when they finish with the best overall record (92-52), followed by a relatively easy post-season series against the Sea Gulls and, finally, a very talented Thunder Bay team, seeking their 4th championship in the GLBL.
But, in the end, it was the Toledo Neptune’s walking away with their first championship in a league that now has 14 seasons to its history. For William Atteberry, original GM of the Toledo franchise, it was a sweet culmination of putting the right pieces in place and parlaying it into a championship for the USA League, its second in a row.
Story by Martin Abresch , June 2, 2028
In his major league debut, Detroit starter Dan Pollard tosses eight no-hit innings. His reward? His first major league loss.
Without getting a hit, the Duluth Gulls manufacture two runs. Meanwhile, Duluth’s pitching shuts out the Detroit Thunderbirds. Duluth beats Detroit, 2-0.
Detroit recently traded starter Ronnie Taylor to Milwaukee, opening up a spot in their rotation. Pollard, age 25, was brought up to take his spot and eat innings.
“His performance was something we never quite saw ever happening,” said Detroit General Manager Eddie Komrska after the game, “To be honest, when we traded Taylor we held a roshambo contest with our minor league pitchers, and apparently he’s the best of the best.”
Facing the defending champions, Pollard strikes out the first two hitters he faces and retires 11 of the first 12. The one batter to reach base, Bob Pichon, walks and is promptly picked off.
The Gulls score their first run in the fifth. Pollard walks Pichon for the second time, then hits Barry Brown with a pitch. A ground out advances Pichon to third. Juan Ibarra hits a deep fly ball, and Pichon tags up and scores without a throw.
Pollard then retires the next 10 batters.
“Pollard pitched an incredible game,” said Duluth General Manager Andrew Sather, “He kept our hitters off balance. To have the type of game he did really speaks to his potential.”
Unfortunately for Pollard, Duluth ace Jorge Valdéz pitches one of the best games of his career. Valdéz (8-1) walks none and allows just two hits over 8 1/3 innings of work. He strikes out a career-high 13 batters. His previous career high of 12 came nearly a year ago, on July 16, 2027, against the Toledo Neptunes.
“Valdez has always had the stuff to be an ace,” said Sather, “But he had never truly been consistent to be labeled as an ace. Pitching as well as he did today, maybe he has turned the corner. No doubt this was one of his better games.”
Two T-Birds reach base via errors by Duluth second baseman—and two-time Flashing Leather Award winner—Harvey Ormon. Both Detroit hits are are singles off the bat of Andy Blatchford—the only player on either team to get a hit today. The seventh inning, when Justin Henry reaches base on an error and Blatchford singles, is the only time where a T-Bird reaches second base.
With the score 1-0, Pollard comes out to pitch the ninth. He walks the leadoff hitter—the opposing pitcher Valdéz. With the game still winnable and Pollard having thrown 114 pitches, the Detroit manager makes the tough call and pulls him from the game, despite the no-hit bid.
John Cline comes in to relieve. A sacrifice bunt moves Valdéz to second. A ground out moves him to third. The would-be third out—a ground ball to second baseman Andy Blatchford—is bobbled, allowing Valdéz to score the second run of the game. Coincidentally, it’s Ormon, the man with two errors on the night, who hits the ground ball that Blatchford bobbles.
Cline gets the next batter, Pichon, to fly out, completing the combined no-hitter.
Valdéz comes out to pitch the bottom of the ninth, retires the first batter, then gets pulled for Christian Cassell, who records his second save of the year.
After the final out, the crowd in Thunderbirds Ballpark was silent and seemed stunned. The loss stung, but they knew that they had seen something very special. Some fans made for the exit. On the field, Pollard shook hands then made his way for the tunnel and the clubhouse. Some fans stuck around and started chanting Pollard’s name. The chants grew louder and louder. Exiting fans stopped, turned around, and joined in.
Word reached Pollard after a minute or two of chanting, and he came back out and tipped his hat to the remaining crowd, who cheered loudly.
“That meant a lot to me,” said Pollard after the game, “I’m going to remember that for a long, long time.”