Sanford’s Perez Knowles delivers a pitch in the 2017 season. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Sanford’s Perez Knowles delivers a pitch in the 2017 season. SUBMITTED PHOTO

SANFORD — General Manager Aaron Izaryk always has three goals in mind when entering a new season. As those goals never change, it’s always safe to assume that the Sanford Mainers have high standards for what to expect on a yearly basis. This year, Izaryk and his team hit two of those three expectations; the only thing missing was an NECBL Championship. 

“Every year, the goals for this team are to get players professional exposure, allow for development into better ball players, and win an NECBL title,” Izaryk said. “Everyone wants to win, but the guys on this team are here to develop, learn from their teammates and coaches, and get the exposure from professional organizations. I think we did a good job with that this year.”

For many, this year’s record would prove to be one of the worst in recent memory. A Sanford team that would not make the playoffs even if the NECBL kept its previous top-four team format is something unheard of. However, if you looked at the games lost by this team, you might think differently.

Sanford finished the 2017 season at 17-27. Despite not making the playoffs this summer, Sanford would be on the opposite end of games that, just last year, they were winning. In the 2016 season, the Moose would go 26-17, and posted a 10-4 record when games were decided by one run. Six of those one-run victories came at home. This season, the team was the opposite; a 5-13 one-run record, including three walk-off losses, and three additional games dropped in the final frame of action. Off paper, this club was easily the most unlucky of everyone in the league.

On paper, Sanford was right in the middle of the pack in almost every statistical category. For a team that was in the basement of the Northern Division for the majority of the season, you would think that the statistics would correlate. Sanford would bat .241 on the season, with the league average standing at .249. They had the sixth-best league ERA and the Northern Division third-best at 3.98, and had the second-best Northern Division fielding percentage with a .965. The team also held the second-best stolen base against percentage, catching 23 of the 97 runners on the base path. 

Sanford had leaders in almost every statistical category as well. Jake Dexter (Oakland, ME/Southern Maine) was in the top five ERA amongst pitchers for nearly the entire season, and finished with the league-most appearances (25). Brock Keener (Houston, TX/Michigan) led all catcher in assists with 23, and played in less games than 10 other catchers in the NECBL. Stephen Arntsen (Manorville, NY/Manhattan) was second amongst all pitchers in pick-off attempts, recording six while being stolen on just five times through 37 .1 innings. Shaine Hughes (Sewell, NJ/Monmouth) was amongst the top five in hitting statistics, swinging a .349 average (5th), driving in 24 runs (T-4th,), and striking out just 13 times through 129 at-bats (2nd).

Izaryk mentioned that, alongside his three goals, were the development of players that didn’t stand out as much as some of the players with more eye-opening numbers. 

“We had guys this year that were tearing it up at the plate, but there are always a couple of players that don’t get attention as they continue to develop. This league, and this team, is dedicated for getting these guys prepared to earn spots and excel in their fall seasons, and we had a number of players that really came a long way through the course of this season.”

One of the best examples at the plate could be Carmine Pagano (McLeansville, NC/UNC Asheville). A .171 batting average on the season, Pagano batted .217 in the last 10 games of the season, and bumped up to .385 in his last five games of the season. For a team that saw just two players hit above .265 on the season, six players hit better than .265 in the last 10 games of the season. 

In an All-Star game that would end in a tie, the Moose would send four players to this year’s midsummer classic. As Jimmy Kerr (Ann Arbor, MI/Michigan), Colby Maiola (North Reading, Mass.), Jake Dexter, and Shaine Hughes all represented the green-and-yellow, Maiola’s 3-for-3 performance at the plate (including a solo home run) would earn the honors as MVP. 

On top of everything going on in-game, the Moose were also pleased to see a number of former members selected in the 2017 MLB draft.

Harrison Wenson (Farmington Hills, MI) played for the Moose in 2015. The 6’3”, 235 catcher hit .228 in a Mainer uniform, including two home runs and six RBI on 21 hits. This past year a Michigan, Wenson hit .191 on the year, and was second on the team with home runs (9). With 36 hits on the season, the Wolverine catcher went in the 24th round to the Angels.

Going in the 28th round was Michigan teammate and two-year Mainer Johnny Slater. Slater was third on the team in hits (63) and second on the team in RBI (47). The Michigan outfielder’s stats were good enough for the Mariners, as he was selected 843rd overall.

Villanova second-baseman Todd Czinege was selected in the 29th round of the MLB draft by the Rockies, and was the last Mainer selected in this year’s draft. On both sides of the infield for the Mainers, Czinege hit an even .300 in the 2016 season, including 12 extra-base hits, four home runs, and 29 RBI. This year, the Wildcat led his team with a .283 average, including 25 RBI on 52 hits. 

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