The 20th season of "Family Fun, Well Done" came to a close on Monday, and there are so many things that will be missed for the nine-month offseason. From walk-off grand slams, to post-game fireworks, to camping on the field, to 17-run games that made this season extra fun. The record may say these Volcanoes weren't fun to watch, but that certainly wasn't the case. Some of the teams' performances and players' statistics say otherwise.
So, who was the Volcanoes' most valuable player this season? Who had the best performance? And what game stood out the most? We try to answer this in the 2016 Volcanoes season review.
The Volcanoes statistical breakdown, specifically from the batter's box, was a lot better than how the team performed this year. Salem-Keizer finished the year 32-42 but boasted an offense that finished top five in team history and had the best batting average since 2011. The Volcanoes won a lot of exciting games, put together masterful pitching performances, hit several walk-offs, produced offensive onslaughts, made defensive web-gems and had multiple players with multi-hit streaks.
Best Game - July 14 at Spokane, 12-4
Baseball is a funny game. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Some days the Volcanoes offense and pitching couldn't get going and then the next day everything would fall into place and the Volcanoes would hang a double-digit run tally on the scoreboard. The Volcanoes scored 10 or more runs in a game on 12 occasions over the season. Salem-Keizer scored a league-best 17 runs in a game against Spokane and won a 10-9 game against Everett, but the best game of the year happened away from home, in Spokane, Wash. on July 14. The Volcanoes plated 12 runs on a league-high 21 hits to beat the Indians 12-4. Three Volcanoes players hit home runs; the Volcanoes scored at least one run in seven of the nine innings; every batter had a hit and four batters had three-hit nights. The 21 hits in a single game tied a Salem-Keizer record.
Honorable Mention - August 17 vs. Hillsboro, 8-4
Nothing beats a walk-off home run to beat your rival, except for a walk-off grand slam. On August 17, Leo Rojas did just that. In the bottom of the ninth, tied 4-4, Rojas blasted a no-doubter to left field. Even if the ball stayed in the yard the man at third base would have scored from third via a sacrifice fly. But a grand slam is always a more enjoyable play to watch and be a part of. The Volcanoes had three walk-off hits throughout the season. Ryan Howard, Kevin Rivera and Leo Rojas each connected with the ball in the last at-bat to win the game.
Best Performance - John Riley, June 20 at Boise, 5-for-5; 2 2B, RBI
Being first is always fun, and doing something that very few people achieve is awe-inspiring. In the fourth game of the season, John Riley was the first of just four NWL players to have a five-hit game. Riley paced the team to 13 hits in a 7-2 victory over the Hawks. The catcher sprayed two doubles around the yard to go along with three singles, scored a run and drove in a run as well, reaching base in every one of his at bats.
Top First-Year Pro - Heath Quinn, OF (Honorable Mention - Gio Brusa, OF)
Drafted in the third round of the 2016 draft, the San Francisco Giants' second pick, Quinn joined the Volcanoes on June 24 and hit the ground running in his second game for Salem-Keizer, going 2-for-5 with two doubles. Quinn finished the season hitting .337 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs for the Volcanoes before getting the call up to San Jose on September 1. Quinn also finished on the NWL end-of-season All-Star team.
Honorable Mention - Gio Brusa, OF
The outfielder from Pacific University came to Keizer with a menace of a bat. Brusa played 53 games for the Volcanoes after getting drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, hitting a team-best 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. Brusa finished the year with a .264 batting average and a .794 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Team MVP - Kevin Rivera (Honorable Mention - Heath Quinn)
With many players coming and going throughout the year, it is hard to find a player that really stood out as a most valuable player. A majority of baseball fans would pick the player with the best overall offensive statistics, but what many fans might overlook is the player that did the little things right all season. Kevin Rivera is one of those players. Rivera hit in the nine-hole for a good portion of the season but hit well above .300. He also played stellar defense at second base and had the best fielding percentage by a middle-infielder on the team. Rivera also put together three hitting streaks of at least 10 games (the most by any player in the league), hitting three home runs over the three hit steaks. Rivera finished the season by landing on the Northwest League end-of-season All-Star team, batting .320 with three homers, three triples, 14 doubles and tied for first in hits with 81. Rivera joined Heath Quinn and Gio Brusa on the NWL end-of-season All-Star team.
Honorable Mention - Heath Quinn, OF
Quinn hit .337 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs for the Volcanoes in 54 games. Quinn was a third round draft pick that moved up to San Jose on September 1. Quinn stayed in the league leaders for a plethora of batting categories for just about the whole time he was with Salem-Keizer.
Not every season can result in a playoff run or a championship, and after making the playoffs last year, the Volcanoes missed out on postseason play after producing some of the best young talent in the minor league ranks. The Volcanoes have a tradition of developing quality players, evidenced by the constantly-growing number which currently stands at 94: the number of former Volcanoes to play in the big leagues.
The 20th season of baseball in Salem-Keizer was one to remember. The Volcanoes put together masterful pitching performances, walk-off grand slams, extra-inning baseball and multiple-game hitting streaks for multiple Volcanoes players. Summers just are not the same without baseball and baseball in Salem-Keizer never disappoints. We'll see you at the ballpark next June.