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2015 Season in Review: Eastern League Champions

September 24, 2015

For the first time in the 23-year history of the franchise, the Bowie Baysox were Eastern League Champions in 2015. Led by fifth-year Manager Gary Kendall, Pitching Coach Alan Mills, Hitting Coach Keith Bodie and Coach Scott Thomas, the 2015 Baysox squad was an historic group.

Not only were the 2015 Baysox the first Eastern League Champions in club history, they were also the first team to ever win a single playoff series and just the second team to ever win a regular season division championship. The Baysox mix of veteran experience and prospect power proved to be the perfect combination to conquer the Eastern League.

Winning It All

The most exciting part of the Baysox season was the end of it. The Baysox finished the season 79-63 to win the Eastern League Western Division by five games over Altoona. It was the Baysox sixth trip to the playoffs with the first five ending in a Divisional Series loss and first regular season division title since 2008.

The Baysox first round opponent was Altoona, who they went 5-9 against during the regular season. The series started out rough as the Baysox led 7-0 in Game 1 in Altoona before blowing the lead in an 8-7 walk-off loss. However, the Baysox were able to rally for three consecutive wins to take the series in four games at home. Quincy Latimore was the Baysox WDCS hero as he went 8-for-17 with three home runs and eight RBI in the series. He hit two home runs in the Baysox 11-3 Game 3 victory. Starting pitcher David Hess also threw seven shutout innings as the Baysox clinched the series with a 3-0 Game 4 victory.

The Eastern Division champion Reading Fightin Phils were the Baysox Eastern League Championship Series opponent. The Baysox again held home field advantage for the Best-of-5 series so the first two games were played on the road. After a 3-1 loss in Game 1, the Baysox rallied behind starter Nick Additon for a 10-3 victory in Game 2. The Baysox returned home for Game 3, but couldn't handle the Fightin Phils high-powered offense in a 9-3 loss that put them on the verge of elimination for the first time. Needing to win the final two games of the series, the Baysox did just that with a 9-1 win in Game 4 followed by a 7-2 win in Game 5.

Baysox infielder Garabez Rosa was named Eastern League Championship Series MVP after going 8-for-21 with two home runs, five runs scored and seven RBI. His biggest contribution was the pair of home runs he hit in the Baysox Game 5 victory. Hess had another outstanding start in Game 4 for the Baysox, throwing seven one-run innings. Pitching on just two days rest, Additon threw four innings in Game 5 to earn his third win of the playoffs.

Next Man Up

The Baysox moved into a tie for first place in the Western Division on June 26 and never relinquished at least a share of the division lead for the remainder of the season. While the Baysox were consistently one of the best teams in the league throughout the season, the roster of players did not remain so steady. A franchise record 67 players appeared in at least one game for the Baysox in 2015, including another franchise record 37 pitchers. Many of the players who started the 2015 campaign were no longer with the team at the conclusion of the season, but the Baysox kept chugging along.

Just seven players from the Baysox Opening Day roster remained with the team all season and were included on the playoff roster (RHP Marcel Prado, LHP Ashur Tolliver, RHP Andrew Triggs, INF Ozzie Martinez, OF Glynn Davis, Latimore and OF Mike Yastrzemski). Plenty of Baysox players left the team after earning promotions to Triple-A or the Major Leagues, including RHP Mychal Givens who made his Major League debut in June after being promoted directly from Baltimore. But the injury bug also struck the Baysox, especially the pitching staff. Seven regular Baysox contributors sustained season-ending injuries during the 2015 season, including LHP Tim Berry, RHP Parker Bridwell, RHP Bobby Bundy, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Branden Kline, RHP Matt Hobgood and C Chris O'Brien. That list includes four of the five pitchers in the Baysox Opening Day starting rotation.

Despite the constant turnover, the Baysox continued to thrive with whoever was present. The Baysox started the season with just three players making their Double-A debuts (INF Jason Esposito, Hobgood, Bridwell), but finished the year with 10 players who had begun the season at the High-A level or lower. The promoted players proved to be key parts of the Baysox playoff run, including two of the four playoff starters (LHP Chris Lee and Hess), the starting catcher (Chance Sisco) and starting third baseman (Drew Dosch).

Pitching Overhaul

The most profound changes to the team occurred on the starting pitching staff. By the end of the season, RHP Joe Gunkel was the most tenured starter on the team, having come to Bowie in June in a trade from Boston for OF Alejandro De Aza. After Gunkel, the other three pitchers in the Baysox playoff rotation had made a combined 15 starts for Bowie during the regular season. 

At the start of the 2015 season, it appeared that pitching was going to be the strength of the Baysox roster. And for the first two months of the season it was. For the first eight turns through the pitching rotation, the same five guys pitched each day and were effective (Berry, RHP Elih Villanueva, Bridwell, Kline, Dylan Bundy). Then in the span of just a few weeks, Villanueva was promoted to Triple-A while Kline and Bundy were both injured. But the Baysox did not miss a step as RHP Terry Doyle entered the starting rotation.

For the next three months, Doyle was the best pitcher in the Eastern League. After a loss in his first start May 17, the Baysox won 13 consecutive games started by Doyle while he went 10-0 in those games. At the time of his promotion to Triple-A at the end of July, he was 12-1 with a 1.97 ERA and he led the Eastern League in both categories. Doyle fell just four innings shy of qualifying for the league's ERA title and he would have been just the second player in Baysox history to record an ERA below 2.00 in a season (John Stephens 1.84, 2001).

The trio of Doyle, Villanueva and Gunkel proved to be a most formidable combination. When the three of them were consistently starting three out of every five days in June and July, the Baysox were hard to beat. Bowie went a league-best 18-8 in June and followed that by going 16-13 in July and again in August. Doyle, Villanueva and Gunkel combined to go 28-12 with a 2.77 ERA over 53 games (48 starts) for the Baysox. Even after Doyle and Villanueva left Bowie for good in August to help Triple-A Norfolk make a playoff run, starting pitchers Additon, Lee, LHP Ariel Miranda and Hess filled in without missing a beat.

The Baysox bullpen was consistently a force throughout the season as well. Givens was the story during the first half of the season. He dominated as the Baysox closer early in the year, going 4-2 with a 1.73 ERA, 15 saves and 79 strikeouts in 35 games and 57.1 innings. Givens led all Eastern League relievers with a 12.40 SO/9IP ratio and was followed closely by teammate Andrew Triggs (10.33) who was fifth. Triggs and Givens combined to convert 32 of 34 save chances during the season. After Givens' promotion to the Major Leagues, Triggs stepped in seamlessly as the Baysox closer and finished the year with a 1.03 ERA and 70 strikeouts over 43 games and 61.0 innings.

Left-handed reliever Ashur Tolliver served as a reliable set-up man for the Baysox throughout the season. He paced the bullpen with 10 holds while going 1-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 37 games. RHP Jason Stoffel joined the Baysox in August as a replacement for Givens and that is exactly the service he provided. He was especially important to the Baysox in the playoffs, appearing in five of the team's nine games and throwing 6.1 scoreless innings while striking out 10 batters.

Veteran Power

The Baysox offense did not experience the same dramatic turnover as the pitching staff. The veteran presence of Martinez, Latimore and 1B Brandon Snyder helped to keep the Baysox clicking throughout the season. The arrival of first base prospect Trey Mancini in June is what helped to push the Baysox over the edge.

In 84 games with the Baysox, Mancini was an absolute force at the plate. He finished the year hitting .359 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 57 RBI. Despite falling 29 plate appearances shy of the 384 needed to qualify for the league batting title, Per Rule 9.22(a), Mancini took an 0-for-29 to reach the required number of plate appearances. He then won the batting title hitting .330 (117-355), beating out Altoona's Adam Frazier, who hit .324 (122-377). The final .330 batting average for Mancini is the third-highest in a single season in franchise history.

Martinez, Rosa and Corban Joseph provided reliable gloves to anchor the Baysox defense through most of the season. Martinez committed just 13 errors over 1044.0 innings, mostly at shortstop, while Rosa and Joseph combined to commit just 16 errors in 172 games. The veteran bat of Brandon Snyder also provided a steady flow of offense in the middle of the batting order for most of the season. Snyder made his return to the Baysox for the first time since 2009 in late April and finished the year hitting .278 with 26 doubles and 52 RBI in 93 games.

The Baysox outfield essentially stayed the same throughout the season. Yastrzemski led the way with 128 games played, followed by Latimore (122) and Davis (96). The trio formed one of the most defensively sound outfields in the Eastern League while also adding some pop to the offense. Latimore was one of the best hitters in the league and was named to the Season-Ending All-Star Team. He led the league with 58 extra-base hits and 225 total bases and was tied for the league-lead with 20 home runs. Yastrzemski was tied for third in the league with 30 doubles and he combined with Davis to steal 30 total bases. 

Baltimore South

Baysox fans also saw a record number of Baltimore Orioles Major League rehabs come through Bowie in 2015. In total, 11 different Orioles players donned a Baysox uniform for at least one game, providing fans the chance to see Orioles stars up close at Prince George's Stadium (Ryan Flaherty, Matt Wieters, Jonathan Schoop, Jimmy Paredes, Steve Pearce, J.J. Hardy, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Jason Garcia, Kevin Gausman, Chaz Roe).

After such a successful 2015 season for the Baysox, there is a good chance fans will be able to see a few alumni from this year's roster the next time they travel to Baltimore, if they haven't already.

Baysox Baseball - We'll Knock Your 'Sox Off. The Baysox are the 2015 Eastern League Champions! Bowie opens its 24th season as the Class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles at home Thursday, April 7 against the Akron RubberDucks at 6:35 p.m. To stay up-to-date on Baysox news during the offseason, visit