While the rains poured down on Mills field Friday night, washing away any chance of the Gulls getting in their last two games against Alexandria, the Gulls' management team washed their hands of three Gulls players and welcomed six new roster additions with open arms.
The rain forced cancellation of the scheduled Gulls-Alexandria game and the conclusion of a previously rained out contest between the two clubs. The teams will not meet again during the regular season. The rainout also wiped out a chance for Brainerd fans to watch the newest additions to the team in action. Those fans will have to wait to judge whether the new players will give the team the improved play it so desperately needs.
The Gulls built the best record in the Northwoods League in winning the first half season crown. Since then, they have been saddled with an error-prone defense and an inconsistent offense that has them in the leagues' basement. So, convinced that the team can and will do better, owner Perry Platisha, general manager John Brabbit and field manager Dave Parra pulled the trigger on some roster changes that they hope will help return the Gulls to their winning ways in time to make a successful run in the looming playoffs that begin Aug. 8.
"Brainerd is a good baseball town," said Platisha. "Fans and media have come to expect quality play at every level of baseball. In the past few weeks, the level of play has not been at a championship caliber. That concerned me a great deal."
Platisha stressed that Parra played a key role in deciding which changes were to be made.
"I gave coach Parra the go-ahead to make the changes that he felt would be necessary to ignite this club and help us win the Northwoods League championship," said Platisha. "We will not be pleased with anything else at this point."
Gone are infielder Kelby Olson, who has struggled mightily with his fielding. Also leaving the team are pitcher Andy Hansen and injured pitcher Greg Wear.
"The chemistry needed to change," stressed Platisha, "and the fundamental level of play in certain positions had to improve if we are to compete for the championship.
"While roster moves are always tough, they are simply a reality at this level of play. It is no longer equal play, and coddling of ballplayers. Play is based on performance, effort, respect and commitment to the game."
The new additions include three pitchers, two infielders and an outfielder.
Steve Ayers is a left-handed pitcher who attends Northern Illinois University. Last season he was 2-2 with a 7.38 ERA.
Michael Neal, Ottawa University, throws from the right side and amassed a record of 7-6 with an ERA of 2.87 at Kansas City Community College.
Brian Boley is another right-handed pitcher. He plays college ball at Northwest Missouri State where he went 4-4 with a 6.46 ERA.
Infielder Bryce Palar from Bradley University will also be added to the team. Palar hit .273 for the season and had a fielding percentage of .957.
Spencer Doyle is a shortstop who plays for Nebraska-Omaha. Doyle's .333 average will be a welcome addition to the Gulls' lineup.
Finally, Ryan Cantrell is an outfielder who hits for power and average. While playing for Illinois State University, Cantrell hit .380 with 16 doubles and two home runs.
As of today, the Gulls have just nine remaining games to pull things together. And that includes the delicate blending of chemistry that has to happen when players join or leave the team. Even with that challenge, Platisha sees his Gulls as a stronger team now than they were before the changes.
"With our core of starting pitchers, Lincoln Mincks, Tim Gorski, Eric Wikstrom and Mike Perkins, I feel we have maybe the best rotation in the league right now. The support of our bullpen that includes the three new pitchers, certainly gives us a great shot in the two-out-of-three championship series.
"If the effort and quality of play that has existed the past couple of days carries on, we will be in great shape heading into the playoffs."
The Gulls are coming off back-to-back wins over Mankato and Alexandria and hope to keep that momentum building.
Mighty Gulls fans will get their first opportunity to size up the team's new additions when the Gulls host Waterloo Tuesday at Mills field.
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