09/26/2017 7:35 PM
The Texas AirHogs closed their 2017 season September 4th with one of the most exciting wins of the year, an 8-7 walkoff in 11 innings vs. Cleburne that culminated with Casio Grider stealing home to seal the win. The team finished the season with 9 more wins than 2016 and looks forward to continuing climbing back toward the top of the American Association standings in 2018.
The season marked the first under the leadership of new owners, new general manager JT Onyett and new field manager Billy Martin Jr. The season also marked the return to games played exclusively in Grand Prairie. In 2016, the franchise had split its home schedule between Grand Prairie and Amarillo.
Longtime MLB vet James Russell starred for the team early in the season, earning an All-Star selection after beginning the season with a 3-1 record and a 2.79 ERA. He struck out 46 prior to his All-Star selection while walking just 6. Lefty Michael Freeman was later added to the roster as well after beginning the year with similarly dominant numbers out of the bullpen and in a starting role.
A 3-game sweep of South Division rival Salina would ignite the best stretch of the season for Texas in early and late July. The team won 14 of 18 between June 30 and July 20, a stretch that crescendoed with a sweep of the eventual division champion and American Association Championship finalist Wichita Wingnuts.
The addition of Grider in late June in a trade with Winnipeg proved to be key in the red-hot stretch. Grider would hit close to .300 in his time with Texas and finish second in the American Association with 40 stolen bases. He provided a boost at the top of the order with Alvaro Rondon, who enjoyed a record-setting season on the basepaths.
Rondon provided one of the most compelling storylines all year for the AirHogs, overcoming early season injuries to ultimately break Jovanny Rosario’s single-season American Association stolen base record of 57. Rondon would finish with 60 to etch his name at the top of the all-time rankings.
Levi Scott and Denis Phipps also turned in stellar seasons for the AirHogs. Scott hit exactly .300 over 95 games, piling up a team-high 26 doubles and a team-high 104 hits. Phipps led the team in average (.314), home runs (10) and RBIs (58).
On the mound, Groesbeck native TJ Bozeman provided effective starting and relief for the AirHogs, ultimately finishing the season with 6 wins and a 3.51 ERA. Rob Tasin bolstered the bullpen starting in early July, ultimately 22 appearances and picking up 5 saves while accumulating an ERA of just 1.14. Luis De La Cruz led the team with 12 saves. In just over 2 months with the team from early June through late August, Jared Mortensen proved to be one of the team’s most effective arms, going 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA over 15 appearances and 10 starts. Ryan "Popeye" Wagner finished the season tied for second in the American Association with 15 hit-by-pitches.
The AirHogs enjoyed their most productive offensive month in August, hitting .278 as a team. Grider personally hit .353 while Scott hit .336.
Texas finished the year with a 43-57 record, taking 3rd place in the South Division. The team will return to action in May 2018. Season tickets are now available by visiting airhogsbaseball.com or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.