Remember when …
Two words that resonate throughout baseball.
More than any other sport, baseball is made for recalling plays from games and seasons gone by.
This summer, the Northwoods League’s Bismarck Larks wrote a new chapter in Bismarck’s baseball history book.
Remember when a guy named Jamie Kaye pitched the team’s first complete-game 1-0 win on the last day of the season?
Wasn’t it Luke Horanski, that catcher from Winnipeg whose walk-up song was the Backstreet Boys, that drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth? Wasn’t there two out? Who scored the run? Scooter Bynum.
The game brought to a close the Larks’ inaugural season, one with highs and lows on the field that can be expected from a young expansion team.
The season began on May 30 when Quinn Irey of Bismarck and the University of Jamestown and Cullen Smith hit back-to-back doubles in the ninth inning for a 2-1 win over Eau Claire in the team’s debut game.
Six of the players who started that game were not around for the final game. There was a lot of turnover.
A common theme among those who made their appearances here was amazing final games at Bismarck Municipal Ballpark.
Nothing was more impressive than Kaye’s final game. But no player was more impressive than pitcher Micah Beyer.
Beyer, in his only home start and the last of his Larks’ brief career, pitched seven innings of three-hit ball in a 3-0 win over Mankato. He struck out a team-record 14 batters to improve to 4-0 and lower his ERA to 0.75. Then he left to take a summer accounting internship after that game.
Pitcher Tyler Steele also debuted with a bang and left with a boom. Steele got the win in the team’s season opener and got a win in relief over Rochester in his last game as a Lark. Steele was the team’s only all-star and finished with a 4-3 record and 2.94 ERA.
Ryan Byrd had set the team record on opening night – obviously – when he struck out 10.
Starting pitcher Carson Selin won’t forget his last start, just four days ago. After losing four straight decisions, Selin closed out his season with seven innings of three-hit ball. But the game was scoreless when he left, so he didn’t get the decision. The Larks scored 10 runs in the eighth inning to beat Mankato 10-0.
All told, 28 pitchers tossed for the Larks this season.
The fans’ last looks at outfielder Connor Perry and first baseman Austin Paschke was watching them swat grand slams on their last day with the team, Paschke’s in his last at-bat.
Infielder-outfielder Ryan Anderson of UC-Davis was able to change positions as needed while maintaining his steady play in the field and at the plate. Anderson had 21 multi-hit games — seven three-hit games and a four-hit game. He finished the season among the league leaders in hitting with a .340 average.
In all, 27 position players took the field for the Larks.
There were winning streaks and losing streaks. Through it all, the one constant was the fans, who proved that Bismarck can be a baseball town — when the entire on- and off-field experience is done right.
There were fireworks, juggled chainsaws, a cannonball man and foods of all kinds as part of season ticket packages. Fans were entertained without causing delays in the games.
In their first season, the Larks sold out 27 of 36 home games, far more than the team could have imagined when they brought a new level of baseball to Bismarck.
Players constantly lauded the fans for their backing, even during hard times.
So when Horanski singled to left, plating Scooter Bynum in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, 1,700-plus fans had a moment they won’t soon forget and neither will the team.
“I don’t think you could have written it any better,” General Manager John Bollinger said. “I’m so happy for the community, seeing the smiling faces here; the kids; the parents, just having a place where you could have fun in the summer.”
How many games did the Larks win in a row at the end of the season? Three.
“We played loose,” Kaye said. “We wanted to go out with a bang.”
They did that on and off the field.
“This will be one of the best inaugural seasons in Northwoods League history,” Bollinger said. “That’s 27 sellouts. That’s unprecedented in our league.”
A series of interpretive panels outside the stands at Bismarck Municipal Ballpark talk about the history of baseball in Bismarck. Some day, the Larks will have a panel and people will stop by to read and reflect.
Remember when …?