The postseason in the St. Louis Metro Collegiate Baseball League and Kats manager Bo Bunton is feeling good about his team.
The top two teams will play a best-of-five series that starts Monday (July 16). The Kats (19-3) have clinched the top seed. They await their opponent. It will either be the Bandits or the Sox.
The regular season ends Saturday.
With so many rainouts this season, Bunton said the league made the decision to play another week of games rather than have two semifinal series among the top four teams to decide who will play for the championship.
He believes the Kats have a good opportunity to claim the championship.
“I like our chances,” Bunton said. “This is my best team in my three years of coaching in the league. Our bench is really strong. Our bullpen is stronger this year.
“It will come down to last couple of games. The Bandits, who we played the last two years in the playoffs, are in second place right now. The Sox have emerged as of late. I think it will come down to the last day on Saturday to decide it.”
The championship series begins at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Missouri Baptist. There will be games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday is a rain date if needed. Game 4 will be Friday and Game 5 on Saturday if they need to be played.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Bunton said.
Entering this season, Bunton’s two previous teams compiled a 40-21 record, with a regular season championship in 2016.
He likes this year’s squad a lot.
“This is the best team I’ve dad,” Bunton said. “I have 11 Division 1 players and Luke Mann, of Vianney who was Gatorade Player of the Year in Missouri.”
Bunton, who is the assistant baseball coach at Vianney, knows Mann well from working him in high school.
Mann is hitting .400 and he leads the league in home runs.
However, Bunton will be without Mann in the postseason unless a Game 5 is needed. Mann will be playing at Missouri. He enrolled July 1 and is taking classes now and working out with the baseball team.
Bunton also will be without Parkway West graduate Jack Swiney. Like Mann, he also left. He is playing at Western Kentucky and he is taking classes there and working out with the team.
“Jack is leading the league in doubles (8) but he had to at school July 1,” Bunton said. “Those are two big guys I’ve lost off the team.”
While Bunton would like to have those two available, he is content with the players he has remaining.
“We have a great core here,” Bunton said. “Our pitching staff is real deep. We have six starters. I think we’re in better shape in terms of pitching. Jack Eisenbarger will start Monday. He’s a left-hander from Rockhurst. He’s kind of been Mr. Consistency for us. He has a lot more velocity over the last year. He throws a lot of strikes. He’s a real control guy.
“On Tuesday, Noah Niznik will pitch. He’s a Vianney kid , a lefty and he’s going to Southeast Missouri to play. When his change-up is on, it’s elite. It is impressive. It’s devastating to hitters when you mix in an upper 80’s fastball.”
After that, Bunton said his Game 3 starter will be Brendan May, who will be going to Webster.
“He’s another kid who is looking to prove something,” Bunton said. “He came in with a chip on his shoulder that he could pitch against good hitters and he’s done that. He made the all-star team.I expect him to be impactful for Webster when he gets there.”
Bunton has enjoyed working with the Kats this season.
“It’s been a really fun summer for me to watch these guys develop and showcase their talents,” Bunton said. “For the most part, it’s putting together a lineup and watching what they can do. They’re trying to learn on their own and get ready for college and be better in college. This is a great league for them to do that.”
Once again, the league has decided not to send a team to the North American Baseball Federation World Series championship in Toledo, Ohio, this year.
“This will be it for whoever wins,” Bunton said. “The winning team won’t go to the NABF World Series. It just costs to much to go to the World Series. Winning this league will be the culmination of the whole summer. This is a great league and you have to be a great team to win it.”