Bananas, Bill LeRoy cap historic night with walk-off win in NIL jerseys

We’re back! Last week, I was taken against my will down to the Caribbean island they call the Bahamas. I was forced to sit on the beach and drink rum punches to celebrate my mother’s birthday (Happy Birthday Ma!). It was really stressful. Trust me. The hot dogs certainly did not live up to the standards of Grayson Stadium.

Before we get into recapping the 2021 home finale of the regular season in BananaLand, I want to give a shout out to Kara Heater, who graciously filled in for me not once, not twice, but three times doing the home game recaps. Kara did a fantastic job capturing the nights that were in BananaLand last week. She did such a good job, I thought my belongings would be in a box on the desk of the cubicle that I don’t have. Fortunately, the powers that be have allowed me to keep my job. But really, fantastic job Kara!

Now, back to the recap of finale home game for the 2021 summer in BananaLand:

NIL Jerseys Were A Hit

Some history was made at Historic Grayson Stadium (it’s right there in the name) as the Nanners rocked some unique unis on Friday night. Effective July 1, college athletes were given the opportunity to sell their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rights to make some money.

The team took the “Name, Image, Likeness theme” to heart with the jerseys symbolically representing each player uniquely. In a literal sense, the jerseys featured the player’s name (duh) and images of their faces all over. Even if these were just fun, regular jerseys, they still looked pretty smooth. But wait, there’s more! (RIP The King Ron Popeil).

The Nanners held an auction on Friday night during the game that allowed fans all over to bid on the game-worn jerseys. All of the proceeds from the auction will be divided evenly between the players! This is the first time in history that fans can buy a jersey that was a collaboration between a team and a college athlete. Bananas players will also be the first college athletes in history to receive their royalties under the new name, image, and likeness freedoms. The most popular jersey over the weekend will stay available for fans to purchase online and at the stadium until next season.

Nanners catcher Bill LeRoy gave his thoughts on the opportunity that college athletes will have now that they can pursue monetary avenues while using their NIL rights.

“Some kids come from places and they could use a little help. I know, myself, I could always use a few extra bucks in my pocket. A lot of kids really work hard and deserve a little bit of money for their efforts so I think it’s a great thing what we’re doing and I think we’re a great poster for summer ball and college in general to do a lot of things to help kids out in the biggest way they can so it’s awesome.”

The Nanners simply know how to do it. Even if you missed out, fans will have 48 hours after Friday’s game to purchase replica jerseys for their favorite player. The Bananas are committing $20 from every replica jersey sold to be paid to the individual player for the collaboration.

The Comeback Kids

No, this isn’t the final time the Bananas will be at home this summer. They already clinched home-field advantage throughout the CPL playoffs. Just guys being dudes. But this was the final regular-season game in BananaLand so let’s get to the recap.

Two-way Nanner, Cole Kitchen, got the call on the bump. After a scoreless first inning, Kitchen allowed the bases loaded in the top of the second. Kitchen got a fly-out and a strikeout and was one strike away from getting out of an incredible jam. However, the Bacon drove in two runs with a single to left. A ridiculous diving play by The Man Dan Oberst saved more damage to end the inning. The power of the sleeve was in full effect for the Nanners first baseman.

In the bottom of the third, the Nanners scratched one back when Jesse Sherrill laid down a beautiful bunt (per usual) then took two bags on balls in the dirt. After an Eduardo Malinowski walk, Oberst and his power sleeve shot a ball to right field for an RBI single.

Kitchen’s night ended in the fourth as he was pulled for Matt Boynton. Kitchen finished with a line of 3.1 innings, three hits, four runs,  two walks and three strikeouts. The Bacon rudely pushed three more across in the top of the fourth.

But that doesn’t matter to this team. They continued to claw away at the four-run deficit.

The Nanners pushed two more runs across in the fifth inning after Malinowski, Oberst and Bryson Bloomer all worked walks with one out. Bill the Knight in shining armor absolutely smoked a ball to left field that almost went to the deli for a salami. Malinowski scored on the sac fly and then the ever-electric Ty Jackson smoked a ball up the middle to score Oberst. Nanners down 5-3.

Scoreless innings from Boynton and Hayden Harris in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings gave the Nanners all the chance they needed to infuse BananaLand with enough electricity to power the eastern seaboard.

Leading off the inning, Malinowski got on base for the third time with a double down the third-base line. Ball was absolutely smoked. Then the Bacon learned a hard lesson: Give Dan Oberst an inch, and he’ll hit it a mile. The Nanners first baseman took an 0-1 pitch for a ride to left field.

103 MPH and 379 feet later, the game was tied and everyone in the 912 area code knew it immediately as Grayson Stadium erupted like Vesuvius.

The tied game was short-lived, though, as the southpaw Harris would allow the Bacon to pull ahead in the top of the eighth. But that didn’t keep the magic from emerging.

Down 6-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Bryson Bloomer caught a 1-0 fastball perfectly and sent it into the night. We’re pretty sure the fans in Macon could hear how loud the sold-out crowd was over in Savannah.

Now with a tied game and all the momentum at their back, the Nanners knew it was their time to strike. Walks to Bill Knight and Ty Jackson followed by a Drew Yniesta infield single loaded the bases for the Heart of BananaLand, Bill LeRoy.

As Billy Squier’s The Stroke pumped through the speakers at Grayson Stadium (elite walk-up song btw), the tension was palpable. LeRoy certainly looked the part of someone primed for the big moment even if he was doing his best to get his heart rate down.

“I took the first two pitches right there just because my heart rate was through the roof, not because I was looking for anything in particular,” said LeRoy. “I literally just took the first two pitches to get my heart rate down. I was actually trying to get hit by a pitch, I was on top of the plate.”

LeRoy took two outside fastballs, looking calm, cool and collected despite his elevated heart rate. A fastball for a strike following his two takes meant it was time to get aggressive.

“That changed my mindset after that third pitch, you gotta get aggressive here and look for a pitch to drive,” said LeRoy. “I didn’t hit it too hard but I hit it hard enough so it worked out.”

Capping off the regular season at home, even an experienced Banana like LeRoy encountered a first on Friday night. What perfect timing, too, to send the Nanners home with a 7-6 win.

“Man, I haven’t hit a walk-off in four summers here and [I do it] in the last regular-season game, I hit one. That was so exciting,” LeRoy said.

Top Hitters for the Nanners

Dan Oberst: 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB

Eduardo Malinowski: 1-3, 2 R, 2 BB

Bill Knight: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB,

First-Round Playoffs Set

The Nanners know who their opponent will be for the first round of the playoffs. It will be a three-game series against the High Point-Thomasville HiToms beginning at home on Sunday, Aug. 1. The Bananas will be on the road for Game 2 on Monday and then, if necessary, Game 3 will be back in Savannah on Tuesday.

What’s Next For The Nanners?

The Bananas already clinched home-field advantage throughout the CPL playoffs but before we get there, they have one more game to wrap up the regular season. They’ll be on the road Saturday visiting the Lexington County Blowfish at Blowfish Stadium with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET.

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