Submitted by Scott Friedline, Indians manager
Indianapolis – The Indians came into the 2015 season of the 18-over division with some of the highest expectations in team history. While the franchise has not yet reached “Championship or Bust” status, losing in the semi-finals each of the previous two seasons to the eventual league champion Arrows put extra emphasis on taking the next step and finally making an appearance in the IBL Championship game.
Off season upgrades exceeded anyone’s expectations. Ben Scheib was added as a potential All-Star #2 behind perennial Ace Zach Savka. The Indians were also able to add the best pitcher in the draft in Ted Neuman. The offense lost Alfred Croquer but added four key contributors in AllStar Dave Knight, Miguel De Los Santos and Pat Gedig, along with the return of John Jeanguenot from a three year hiatus.
However, as in life, baseball never seems to follow the script you write for it. Neuman and Scheib pitched in only three games apiece totaling 20 innings. Not having them available for the playoffs really hurt. The team was also without Jeff Klump, Aaron Richardson and Zach Miller for most of the season, three key contributors from the 2014 offense.
Eric Yeary and Sammie Maletta valiantly backed up Zach Savka on the mound. The offense scuffled at times, but was often able to do just enough behind monster seasons by Jacob Daubenmier and Pat Gedig. For much of the year the Indians were still able to maintain the four seed they had become accustomed to behind the Arrows, Hurricanes and Mustangs but the season hit a low point after a 2-4 stretch against the lower seeded A’s and Orioles.
It felt as though the Tribe had started to lose their battle with attrition as their backs were now firmly against the wall. With two regular season games left, a Sunday doubleheader against the Braves, the Indians were at risk of becoming a play-in team for the IBL Playoffs. They had already lost their 4-seed and with a split they would fall to the six. A sweep by the Braves would send the Tribe (who would be without the benefit of a start by Zach Savka) to the play-in round, not even guaranteed a spot in the tournament.
The first game against the Braves was a back and forth affair that the saw the Indians push across the game winning run in the top of the ninth. Sammie Maletta kept it close for the offense until Zach Savka came on to close the door after having just pitched Thursday night in a complete game loss to the Orioles. High off a game that could have gone either way, Eric Yeary took the mound and got the win in game two behind an 11-run outburst by the offense. For the first time in a long time the Indians were having fun, joking around in the dugout, and enjoying baseball with each other. It was a great sign of things to come.
The Indians took on the Aces in round one of the IBL Playoffs. Eric Yeary got the start in an attempt to save Zach Savka’s arm as long as possible, but Savka was called on in the fifth when the Indians fell behind 3-2 after a solid outing from Yeary. The Indians tied it in the eighth but it would take 13 innings for the Indians to claim the win behind three great defensive plays by Eric Espinosa, Jacob Daubenmier and Scott Friedline.
Finally, the Indians would get their third shot at the Arrows in the semi-finals in as many years. The team again intended to try and save Zach Savka until he was needed but he demanded the start, even having pitched eight innings just four days prior. Savka ended up going all nine, holding the Arrows to just one run, as the offense did just enough to send the Tribe to their first IBL Championship in team history.
What a journey. The Indians ended up losing the Championship to the Hurricanes, and while the disappointment is still there, the Tribe should take a lot of pride in what they accomplished; where they came from and what they had to overcome to get where they got. The loss is still a loss, but it is also a building block. Many great teams never get the chance to play in the IBL Championship, let alone win one. The 2015 edition of the IBL Indians will forever be one of my favorites.