BELOIT, WI - When the 2013 season began, few knew what to expect from the Beloit Snappers. They had a new manager, first year skipper Ryan Christenson, and a new affiliation, changing from the Minnesota Twins to the Oakland Athletics. The team was full of fresh faces, with an Opening Day roster that included 15 players who had been selected in the 2012 draft. Despite all these question marks, the Snappers season proved to be one of the best in team history. They captured the First Half Western Division title, the team's first division championship since 2007. They also posted the sixth best win percentage in franchise history and nearly broke the team record for home runs in a season. A campaign that began with so many uncertainties ended with the Snappers in a comfortable place: the Midwest League Playoffs. It will be a long time until fans in the Stateline see a team that provided as many thrills as the 2013 Beloit Snappers.
The first few weeks of Beloit's season included a lot of rain, as the Snappers saw seven games postponed due to weather in April. The team struggled to find a rhythm as they dealt with constant interference from Mother Nature, but they managed to win their final two games in April to finish up at 11-11. During the month, there were some outstanding individual performances, particularly from Beloit's pitching staff. On April 6th, Seth Streich earned the squad's first win of the season with five shutout innings in a 2-1 win over Cedar Rapids. Three days later, Raul Alcantara held the Peoria Chiefs to one hit over seven spectacular innings, leading Beloit to another win. At the plate, third baseman Renato Nunez showed off a power bat, leading the team with a .310 average and five home runs. Late in April, the Snappers welcomed in shortstop Daniel Robertson, a first round pick by the A's in the 2012 draft and one of the organization's most highly rated prospects. He wasted no time making his presence felt. In his first game in Beloit, Robertson fell a triple shy of the cycle, drove in three runs and scored three times. The young infielder would go on to have a fine season, providing a solid bat in the lineup and an outstanding glove at shortstop.
As May began, the Snappers started to get hot. They began the month with a 4-2 road trip, then came home and won five out of seven. May's first homestand included some of the most memorable moments of the season. On May 9th, the Snappers walked off on a wild pitch against Peoria. The next day, in the second game of a doubleheader, Alcantara once again baffled the Chiefs lineup. In a seven inning complete game, Alcantara permitted a hit to the game's first batter and didn't give up another safety all night. Alcantara also didn't walk a batter in submitting one of the Snappers' best pitching performances of the season and the team rolled to a 4-0 victory. That performance was followed up by another great ending. One day later, Beloit trailed Cedar Rapids 2-1 in the ninth inning before Chad Lewis rocketed a double off the left field wall, scoring two for a walk-off win. Two days later, Lewis was again the hero as he beat Cedar Rapids with another walk-off hit, securing a series victory.
As the month moved along, the Snappers faced a seven-game stretch in which they'd battle Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids, the two teams ahead of them in the Western Division playoff race. This difficult stretch proved to be a turning point in Beloit's season. After beating Quad Cities in game one, the Snappers trailed 3-0 in the eighth inning of the second game before staging an uprising. They scored twice in the eighth and, with two outs in the ninth, moved ahead on a two-run single by Bruce Maxwell. This was one of many outstanding moments for Maxwell in May, a month in which he batted a team-high .365. Beloit not only went on to win that game, but the next two as well in a four-game sweep of the River Bandits and followed that up with a three-game sweep of Cedar Rapids. The team finished May with a record of 20-12 and a league-high 29 homers. On the bump, Tucker Healy and Ryan Dull emerged as the best relief tandem in the Midwest League. Together, they totaled 18 innings out of the bullpen and neither allowed an earned run all month. Dull also racked up six saves. Because of such a stellar, all-around performance, Beloit now found itself in the midst of a playoff race.
After going 1-2 in the first three games of June, the Snappers hit the road four-and-a-half games behind Cedar Rapids for the division lead. That's when they got hot. Beloit swept three games against Wisconsin and then knocked off Burlington in four straight, the most dramatic of which was an 8-7 victory that included a go-ahead grand slam by Renato Nunez in the game's final inning. The team then returned home and immediately beat Wisconsin in two straight. The first win tied the Snappers for first place in the Western Division and the second came against rehabbing Brewers hurler Hiram Burgos and also clinched a spot in the playoffs for Beloit for the second straight season. This also gave them nine consecutive wins, a season-high. Both Beloit and Cedar Rapids lost their next two games to remain tied, setting the stage for a fantastic finish.
With two games left in the first half, the Beloit Snappers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels were tied for first place in the Western Division. The Snappers would finish the first half with two games against the Clinton LumberKings while Cedar Rapids would face the Peoria Chiefs. At stake was the First Half Division Title. Beloit won the first game behind a pair of homers from Christopher Bostick while Cedar Rapids lost, giving the Snappers sole possession of the top spot in the West for the first time all year. The next day, Beloit staged a two-out, ninth inning rally, coming back from a 7-6 deficit to win 8-7 on a walk-off single by Bostick, sealing the title. The Snappers division title was their first since 2007 and their 43-27 record was also their best first half record since that season. The half was capped off by Bostick winning the Midwest League Player of the Week Award for June 10-16. During that period, he raked to the tune of a .458 average with four homers and 14 RBIs. It was a great ending to an outstanding first half of baseball.
The 2013 Midwest League All-Star Game took place on June 18th in Dayton, Ohio and the Snappers were well represented. Beloit sent Dull, Maxwell, Nunez, Alcantara, first baseman Matt Olson and pitcher Michael Ynoa to the contest. The end of the first half also saw the beginning of player promotions from the Snappers. Healy, Dull and Alcantara all would begin the second half with the Stockton Ports in High-A. Early in the second half, Maxwell and Ynoa would join them. Ynoa's promotion did not come before it was announced that he would be participating in the 2013 Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, the first time a Snapper was ever chosen for the event. This just added to the list of accomplishments by the Snappers in just half a season of baseball.
When the second half began, Beloit picked up right where they left off. They began the half by winning 11 of 13 and finished the month of June with an incredible 20-6 record. The biggest Snapper bat during the month belonged to Bostick, who put up a .391 BA while leading the team in homers (6) and RBIs (25). The month also saw the emergence of starting pitchers Seth Streich and Dakota Bacus. Streich's ERA of 1.54 was the best among the team's starting pitchers and he also led Beloit in innings pitched. He began the second half by tossing seven shutout innings against Peoria to earn a victory and he was later named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for his exploits. Bacus was undefeated during June, going 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA. His best performance was an eight inning masterpiece against Kane County in which he shutout the Cougars on only three hits.
The month of July proved to be a tough one for Beloit as they slipped to a 13-15 record, but it was not without some bright spots. One of the year's most exciting moments came on July 10th against Lake County. With the game tied in the bottom of the tenth, John Wooten clubbed a pitch over the left field fence for a walk-off homer and a 3-2 win. Catcher Nick Rickles broke out and had a fantastic month, hitting .400 with 11 extra base hits, including three homers, and driving in 19. The highlight of the month for Rickles was a ninth inning grand slam he hit against Bowling Green on July 22nd, which transformed a 7-5 deficit into a 9-7 lead in a game the Snappers would go on to win. That blast jump-started a week in which Rickles went 11-for-22 with three doubles, two homers and nine RBIs. On July 27th, he was a perfect five-for-five against Quad Cities including another round-tripper. These performances earned him the Midwest League Player of the Week award, but that wasn't the only recognition he'd receive. At the end of the month, Rickles was selected as the Topps Midwest League Player of the Month. Also heating up in July was Aaron Shipman, who posted a .362 average in the month to go with a .474 on-base percentage. In the bullpen, pitchers Tyler Vail, Stuart Pudenz and David Mota led the way, as the three combined for a 1.20 ERA in 37.2 innings. Vail also collected a pair of saves.
After a slow start to begin August, the Snappers got back in the groove as the playoffs approached, winning 10 of their final 14 games. That stretch included a 5-1 mark in the team's final homestand as the players treated the fans to one last great showing before the postseason. One player who thrived during August was Matt Olson. The first baseman collected 10 homers during the month, the second most in all of Minor League Baseball. His 30 RBIs in August were also good enough to tie him for the fourth most in the minors. The season's final month also included outstanding play from reliever Nolan Sanburn, who had a 0.56 ERA in 16 IP, and from Daniel Robertson, who homered five times, including a pair of multi-homer games, and hit .314. This strong finish helped Beloit close out the regular season with a 77-62 record, their best since the 2007 team that lost in the Midwest League Championship Series. This squad would look to do them one better.
Beloit cruised into the first round of the playoffs and met the Clinton LumberKings, winners of the second half wild card. Game One was all about Christopher Bostick and Nick Rickles, who combined for two homers, seven RBIs, six hits and four runs. Rickles also threw out two attempted base stealers as the Snappers fought off the LumberKings, 9-6, in extra innings. The focus shifted to the mound in Game Two thanks to Beloit's Dylan Covey. The 2013 draftee held Clinton to one earned run and walked none in six innings. The offense got him the run support he needed as the Snappers swept away their opponents with a 6-2 triumph. That night was capped off by the season's final fireworks display.
Up next was the Western Division Championship series against Quad Cities. The Snappers pushed the series to a deciding third game, but were ultimately done in by the eventual league champions. While the team fell short of its ultimate goal, it didn't diminish the memory of a remarkable season. The 2013 Beloit Snappers provided their followers with a year full of special moments and unforgettable memories, both on and off the field. The 2013 season was a truly memorable year of baseball in the Stateline.