BUTLER, Pa. - Purdue baseball's Evan Kennedy homered in his first at-bat on consecutive days, helping his Lafayette Aviators summer team win the Prospect League title Sunday.
Kennedy joined Skyler Hunter (Palm Springs Power, SCCBL) as Boilermakers to play for a summer league champion this year. The Aviators won the Prospect League title in their second year of existence and did so by posting all four of their playoff victories away from Lafayette. Evan Warden also played for the Aviators this year, but injuries ended his summer ball season in early July.
Kennedy finished his weekend in Western Pennsylvania 3-for-6 with a double, two homers, five RBI, four walks and four runs scored. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning of Saturday's win and another two-run shot in the second inning of Sunday's winner-take-all game three. The Aviators took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning Sunday and then blew the game open with a 10-run rally. Kennedy batted twice in the inning, drawing a walk in his first plate appearance and then delivering a two-out, two-run double his second time up.
The Aviators outscored the Butler BlueSox 23-8 over the final two games after losing the series opener 14-1. They became the first Prospect League team to win the title after losing game one of the championship series. They also shut out Terre Haute in the decisive third game of their division series to advance to the finals.
Kennedy finished the playoffs 5-for-20 with a 1.044 OPS thanks to three extra-base hits and five walks. He reached base safely in all six games. After recovering from a wrist injury in late June that sidelined him during the final two months of Purdue's season, he batted .291 with 15 extra-base hits, 27 RBI, 25 walks, 34 runs scored and a 1.015 OPS in 36 regular-season games for Lafayette.
The Aviators had to play their three home playoff games in Kokomo due in part to a scheduling conflict with the annual Colt World Series, held at Loeb Stadium from Aug. 4 to 9. But Lafayette managed to win all three of its true road games in the playoffs to take the title, beating a Butler team in the finals that was a league-best 37-23 during the regular season.
STILL ALIVE IN SUMMER LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Boilermakers were also playing for the Victoria HarbourCats of the West Coast League and Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League this summer. Harry Shipley and Bryce Bonner helped Victoria qualify for the WCL playoffs. Shipley finished the finished regular season riding a 14-game hit streak, but had to return to the Midwest after the regular season ended to get ready for his senior year at Purdue. Bonner played his final game for Victoria on July 12. As of Aug. 13, the HarbourCats have a 1-0 lead on Corvallis in the WCL's championship series.
Jacson McGowan's Rapids Rafters won the South Division title for both the first and second half of the season. However, McGowan's last game was on July 25 after he was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance of a game in Rockford, Illinois. The Rapids Rafters are the top seed in the NWL playoffs after winning a league-record 52 games this summer.
MORE SUMMER LEAGUE PLAYOFF QUALIFIERS
Five other Boilermakers helped their summer league teams qualify for the playoffs...
Hunter Wolfe, Strasburg Express (Valley League). Strasburg rallied back to win a pair of divisional series and advance to the finals, but lost a 2-1 pitcher's duel in the decisive game three. A walk-off homer to cap a four-run ninth inning was the difference in the decisive game of the divisional finals.
Milo Beam, Conejo Oaks and Stephen Kalina, Healdsburg Prune Packers (California League). Beam and Kalina helped their teams qualify for the CCL's four-team double-elimination tournament held the weekend of July 28 to 30 at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, California. Healdsburg beat Conejo twice at the event. Healdsburg, which went 26-9 to win the North Division, forced an if-necessary championship game vs. Orange County, but came up short 5-3 in the final.
Kyle Van Hoeck, Lake Erie Monarchs (Great Lakes League). Lake Erie won the Northern Division title with a strong 27-15 record, but dropped its postseason play-in game.
Alec Olund, Northwest Indiana Oilmen (Midwest Collegiate League). Incoming Boilermaker Bo Hofstra also pitched for the Oilmen this summer. Northwest Indiana won the regular-season title with a 34-16 record but dropped its first-round playoff series.
MORE ON SHIPLEY'S HIT STREAK
Shipley batted .328 (20-for-61) with seven extra-base hits, 10 RBI, six walks and 18 runs scored during his 14-game hit streak to close the summer with the Victoria HarbourCats. He posted eight multi-hit efforts over his final 19 games of the summer. The shortstop lead his team in games played (47), at-bats (183), hits (53), runs (46), walks (24), hit by pitch (14), triples (4), stolen bases (11) and defensive assists (127).
HOT STREAKS, BIG NIGHTS DURING FINAL WEEKS OF SUMMER BALL SEASON
Mike Madej posted five consecutive multi-hit games, driving in a run in all five, for the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods League from July 25 to 28. He went on to hit safely and score a run in eight straight games from July 25 to 30, homering three times during that stretch. He finished his best week of the summer 14-for-33 (.424) with five extra-base hits, 11 RBI, four walks and 11 runs scored.
Nick Dalesandro did it all in an 11-inning win for his Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League on July 30. Before delivering the walk-off single in the 11th, he worked four scoreless innings in his only appearance on the mound of the summer. His fifth-inning RBI double was the reason the game went to extras tied 1-1.
Wolfe was named the Valley League Pitcher of the Night on July 26 after working seven shutout innings of four-hit ball in an 8-0 victory. He faced only 23 batters over seven innings after inducing a pair of ground ball double plays and picking off a runner at first.
Mike Duursma (2000-01) coached his Netherlands team to the Colt World Series title, becoming the first European Zone team to win the PONY Ball tournament held annually in Lafayette. Duursma was a first team All-Big Ten shortstop for Purdue in 2001 and later played for the Netherlands at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Kyle Wood (2013-16) and Shane Bryant (2015-16) faced each other six times in a week's time in Frontier League action. Bryant started on the mound twice for the Joliet Slammers vs. Wood's Windy City ThunderBolts. Over the two games, Wood recorded three singles against his former teammate. Bryant made it into the sixth inning of both starts. He struck out Wood to end the third inning of the Aug. 2 matchup after hitting him with a pitch earlier in the game. Windy City went on to win both games, aiding its pursuit of wild card berth in the Frontier playoffs.
Josh Lindblom (2007-08) worked seven innings of three-hit ball Aug. 10 in his finest start since returning to the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization in late July.
Brad Schreiber (2010-13) signed with the Colorado Rockies organization July 26 and was assigned to the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League (High A). He has worked five innings of two-hit relief over his first three appearances in August.