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The History of Baseball in Utica, Part 2: The Brewers Era (2006-15)

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Baseball finally returned to Utica in 2006, albeit in a much different capacity. For one, this wouldn’t be minor league baseball with a direct affiliation with MLB. And secondly, this team would be the Brewers. The team, whose nickname paid homage to the city’s brewing history, played in the now-defunct ECBL (Eastern Collegiate Baseball League) from 2006-10 before competing in the more reputable NYCBL (New York Collegiate Baseball League) in 2011 and 2012. The 2011 team finished atop their new league with a 32-12 record. Infielder Scott Krutel led the league in home runs with seven that summer and finished second in RBIs with 40, although that is still the single-season franchise record to this day. Pitching was by far that team’s greatest strength though as they pitched to a combined ERA of 2.36 with 7.50 being the highest ERA held by anyone on the staff. Future Tampa Bay Ray Ryan Yarbrough tossed 43 innings with a 2.30 ERA, but Jacob Petitt was the clear ace as he won a franchise-record seven games and had a miniscule 0.71 ERA in 50.2 innings pitched. However, they were upset in a 2-0 series sweep by the Oneonta Outlaws in the East Division Championship Series. Their season was far from over though. In August, they went to Toledo and captured the NABF World Series title with a resounding 10-1 victory over the Crystal Lake Cardinals in the final. 2012 would be a step back as a late-season losing streak caused them to miss the playoffs and finish under .500 with a 19-21 record.

After just two seasons in the NYCBL, Utica joined the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL.) Although they missed the playoffs in 2013, infielder Michael Pierson did win the league’s batting title with a remarkable .404 batting average and 63 hits. Both are still Utica single-season franchise records. Their 16-28 record in 2013 was their worst to date, but rock bottom came in 2014 as they finished 9-36, despite having future MLB all-star Cedric Mullins patrolling center field. Chris Amaya, who had served as the team’s pitching coach in 2013, was brought in to manage the 2015 team. With players coming in from notable schools such as Ohio State, Wake Forest, UConn, and St. Bonaventure, the foundation for their turnaround was in place. Taylor Olmstead made the first step in establishing his legacy in Utica that season by tying the single-season franchise record with seven homers (tied for most in the PGCBL), but they still needed a late-season push to make their first-ever PGCBL playoff appearance. On July 29, Jared Baldinelli homered and drove in four runs while Ryan Simpler took a no-hitter into the 7th inning en route to tossing a complete-game, two-hit shutout in Boonville against the Adirondack Trail Blazers to punch their ticket to the PGCBL playoffs for the first time ever. The following day, shortstop Ryan Cox became the second Brewer in three years to win a batting title, finishing the season with a .383 average. Unfortunately, ace Michael Messier, who finished just .01 away from winning the league’s ERA crown, just ran out of gas in their win-or-go-home playoff game against the Victor Railriders as Victor won 13-5. Closer Wei-Yang Tsao, one of two pitchers that summer who had come from Taiwan who went through the entire regular season without giving up a single earned run, ran out of gas and imploded in this game as well. 2015 would be the Brewers’ best season in the PGCBL with a 21-29 record and third place finish in the West Division. This would also be their final season.

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