Bananas Clinch the First CPL Playoff Spot in Wild Week of Action

Written by Biko Skalla:


I know, I know, by now you’ve seen it on every major news network, it’s dominating the sports sections of all the national newspapers, it’s been in magazines, on billboards, and drawn by planes in the sky, but still I think it is worth mentioning one more time… The Bananas have clinched the first home playoff game in the CPL! What a wild ride it has been, with the Bananas now 19-3, the first half of the season in the books (that happened rather quickly), and the team’s sights set on August 1st in Grayson Stadium, when the Petitt Cup Playoffs begin.

The week began with the team’s longest break of the season, having Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off. But of course off days are often filled with extracurriculars in BananaLand. On Monday afternoon Cole Kitchen joined me on Bananas Unpeeled, and we had a lot of laughs together right from the jump…

As soon as Cole finished the interview with yours truly, he ran down to the field so that he could be a part of one of the greatest movie scene reenactments the Bananas have ever thrown together.

A true masterpiece. Everyone who was involved deserves at least one Oscar, if not more for what they did.

Wednesday kicked off 6 games in 4 days for the Nanners as the Blowfish came into town. The Bananas scored in the first inning on a Tristan, I wish I could actually get into some of these videos, Peters, sac fly to center, bringing in Cole, I’m basically in every video this week, Kitchen, and Cole celebrated the run with a wild trip through the grandstands with the team…

Ryan, Mr. No-Hitter, Kennedy, got the start, and after 5 no-hit innings in Macon for the bulk of the first no-hitter in franchise history (that’s 4 in high school and now 1 in college for the kid), he started the Blowfish with 4 perfect innings, to make it a true 9 no-hit frames in a row (combining two different games against two different teams but still crazy). Ryan would give up a leadoff single to break up the perfect game in the 5th, as the southpaw would go on to toss 5.2 scoreless innings with 3 hits and 7 strikeouts while picking up the W, and getting a little help from his defense at the end of his night…

The run support came in bunches for Kennedy with 4 in the 5th inning, highlighted by a Bryson, “If Ryan’s Mr. No-Hitter, I gotta be Mr. Double right?”, Bloomer, 2-RBI double. The guys would bat around, and then do the exact same thing in the 6th, scoring four more runs. Both rallies were piloted by the 6-9 hitters in the order, sparked by leadoff singles from Bill, I mean Macon’s honestly a pretty fun town to go out in, Knight. In the 5th and 6th innings, Bill, Jesse, I would literally shank an opposing player to reach base safely, Sherrill, Bryson, and Bill, I mean it’s clear they’re pitching around me cause they can feel my first Grayson Stadium homer is on the horizon, Leroy, combined to go 5-5, with 3 walks, 3 RBI’s, and 7 runs scored. Madness from the bottom of the order! When the dust had settled, the Bananas won the game 10-4, with 7 of 9 starters at least driving in or scoring a run, 6 of them with at least 2-a-piece of either stat. An absolute drubbing by every definition of the word. Who else, but Mr. Cole Kitchen recapped the night’s events, while Nathan, it’s actually scary how good I am at being someone else’s arms, Dettmer, supplied Cole with a couple of unfamiliar hands to help Cole with his player meal…

With the win on Wednesday and the Hi-Toms simultaneous loss, the Bananas were set up to clinch the first half CPL West, (and the home playoff game that comes with such a feat), with just one win in a double header in Macon or one Hi-Toms loss as they played a double header in Martinsville. With history more than likely going to be made, the dynamic duo of Savannah Alaniz and Alex Marinelli hopped on the bus with us and we all headed west down I-16.

Game 1 was a resumption of a contest from June 12th that had been lightening’d out. The Bananas were up 3-2 from a Tristan Peters RBI double and a 2-run triple lined down the right field line by Bill Knight.

Kitchen had an odd start where he gave up 6 earned runs in 4.1 innings thrown but also struck out 10 Bacon hitters along the way. Nolan, the nastiest pitcher in Dublin baseball history – just ask Leroy, Daniel, and Dylan, put your money in goats or cows, they’re safer than the stock market, Cunningham, combined to toss 4.2 scoreless innings of relief to keep the guys in the game.

Bryson smacked the ding out of a ball 386 feet out to left for his first Nanners home run. Nick, “Are you talking to me?!”, Clarno, and Ty, I’m kind of a big deal, Jackson, were driven in by Peters and Danny, I can’t believe someone even fake wanted to fight me at the end of this week, Oberst, to tie the game at 6.

Bryson and Danny pulled off a perfect double steal, with Bloomer taking 2nd and Oberst swiping home to give the Nanners a 7-6 lead in the 10th. But the Bacon started with 2 men on-base (as the Bananas did before them) because of CPL extra innings rules, got a bunt base hit to load the bases and then back-to-back singles to walk the game off in the bottom of the 10th.

Right as game 2 got underway, word came in from Martinsville that the Hi-Toms had lost the nightcap of their double header, securing the Bananas the first of 4 playoff spots in the league, but the guys still thirsted for a victory for an exclamation point on their incredibly dominant fist half. So they turned to Joe, I’m Mr. Ivey League today (that should be read in the pirate’s voice from Captain Philips), Miller, who allowed his only run of the night on a swinging bunt in the 1st. Joe went 4 innings giving up only 2 hits and striking out 9, overtaking Kyle, this will not last for long, Luigs, snaring a 34-31 K lead atop the CPL.

Zane, the baby-faced killer, Denton, launched a 373 foot solo home run to left to open up the 4th inning and tie the game at 1. The Bacon took the lead back in the 5th, getting an unearned run of Nfathan, you can be talking a foot away from my face on the bus but I won’t hear you if I’ve got my AirPods in, Dettmer, getting Tyler, I’m surprised it took so many games for this to happen, Gillum, ejected as Eduardo, “Why would I throw the ball to the moon if I didn’t just get tanked?”, Malinowski, got absolutely demolished by a slide at second base that the umpires ruled clean. Oberst and Clarno both thought they got tossed too, but it turns out Gillum just got double ejected? It was a bizarre, confusing, and comical scene all around. Dettmer would go on to K a pair in 2 terrific innings on the bump and Zane scored on a wild pitch in the 6th to make it Denton 2, Bacon 2. Then in the 7th, Bill Knight stroked a single up the middle, driving home Ty to give the Nanners their first lead of the game.

Andrew, I’m gonna be a color commentator whenever the baseball career is over, Armstrong, came in for the save and got into trouble with 1st and 3rd and only 1 out in the 9th. But then Corey, I’m a wizard, Pye, brought some sage advice out to Andrew on the mound.

“I told em’ let’s try to pick this guy off 1st,” Pye said. “They had a pinch runner in and I figured the guy would go.”

Easy as pie (or Pye), Andrew picked the pinch runner off first base who was trying to steal on the first pitch and Zane threw him out at 2nd. After 2 pitches to the hitter, the man on 3rd base, Tim, this could go incredibly right or incredibly wrong, Conway, tried to pull a fast one on his North Georgia teammate behind the plate but got caught dead to rights halfway to home and was tagged out on a full-extension dive by Bill as the two raced towards 3rd.

“We really are best of friends at school,” Bill said, “and he was trying to score on my throw back to Andrew on the mound, but when I didn’t throw it and I looked down at him he had a huge smile on his face. It felt great tracking him down to end the game.”

So just like that the game was over and I was incredibly confused because I had turned my back to the field to put the ball on my whiteboard while the play developed out of nowhere…

But the main takeaway here is the Nanners secured a 3-2 win, and had a little something extra to celebrate on their playoff game clinching evening. And now for a video that took oodles more time and effort to create than the little diddy you just saw (but also shoutout to my mom for sending the last one to the family because it had cracked her up so much, made it easy to just trim and upload for me), here’s Alex Marinelli’s incredible edit of the Bananas 3-2 victory…

With the doubleheader starting at 6:00pm and not ending until after midnight, the bus didn’t roll into Grayson Stadium until well after 3:00am. But the boys rallied as they always do, and were ready to do battle with the Bacon once again the following night, but first were rewarded for their torrid start to the summer with a little present from the Bananas brass…

That’s actually one of the greatest videos I’ve ever seen. Just pure serotonin pumping straight into the brain (I think that’s how it works at least, I didn’t pay the closest attention in PSY 205 at Syracuse).

With the largest crowd on hand since the 2019 season, Gillum turned to his ace (on a staff filled with aces albeit), Kyle Luigs, and he was quite solid. Kyle gave up just 2 earned runs in 6.1 innings thrown, (and gave them both up while he was mic’d up with me on the broadcast, so I feel partially responsible for them), as he struck out 7 hitters, bouncing back above Joe Miller for the league lead in K’s, 38-34. The Biggest Unit, Jared Beck, kept the Bacon off the board with 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, mowing down 5 hitters along the way. But the normally potent Bananas offense was stifled by Macon’s starter Fred Wilson, as the southpaw scattered just a pair of hits over 7 innings of shutout, 8 strikeout baseball. The Nanners loaded the bases with 1 out in the 8th on 3 singles, but couldn’t get a run in (with an assist from a tough 3rd strike call on Livan, this is not at all how I wanted to get my weekly nickname, Reinoso). Eddie doubled with 2 outs in the 9th and Bryson drove him in with a line drive single to left-center, setting up the birthday boy Nick Clarno who absolutely mashed a ball deep to left field that lost its momentum in the thick Savannah sky and fell down into the left fielder’s glove on the warning track, just a couple feet away from a game-tying 2-run blast. The Bananas fell to an absolutely unacceptable, league-best 17-3. It was quite a scene from gates opening to the fireworks after the game, and who doesn’t love a little Electric Love to show the Friday night experience in Grayson?

That set up the tigers for a Saturday trip to Lexington county for another double header, and their 5th and 6th games played in the last 4 days. Luckily for Gillum and Pye, they have by far the best pitching staff in the CPL, and the guys who hadn’t thrown like crazy over the last 3 days were more than ready to ball out.

Tom, all I do is win, win, win, Vincent, was lights out, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings only allowing 3 hits while striking out 4. Matthew, I’m about to go full prophet mode, Steidl, walked the first man he faced before retiring 7 guys in a row to keep the game scoreless going into the 7th (and final) inning.

Eduardo, I love lifting things up and putting them down, Malinowski, lead off the top of the 7th with an incredibly clutch solo home run to right center field, his second dingaling of the season, to give the Nanners a 1-0 lead. That was all Grandpoppy Steidl would need, as he set down the Blowfish 1-2-3 in the 7th to make it 10 straight hitters retired, locking up a 1-0 victory for his team and the CPL pitching line of the night for himself.

It turned out Eddie had the perfect mindset for his game winning at-bat because of some inspiration he had gotten in the on-deck circle.

“It all started when I was on deck and my boy Ty Jackson came up and gave me a pep talk and slapped my tush,” Eddie said. “I yelled at him because he only got my right cheek, so then he slapped me real hard on my left cheek to to even it out. Then I got in the box, got the pitch I wanted, took advantage of it, and my 8 trips to the Zoo every day finally paid off.”

Incredible to see how the sausage is really made.

The guys were ready to rock n’ roll early in game 2, with Ty leading the game off with a single to right setting up Kitchen, Malinowski, and Clarno to all get plunked by pitches, propelling the Bananas to a 2-0 lead. Bloomer tattooed an RBI double to left-center in the 3rd to score Oberst and push the lead to 3-0.

Christian, I may be a fun and goofy guy but I’ll slug ya if you come for my teammates, Dearman, threw 3 electric innings, allowing only 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 5 and producing enough swagger to power a small town. Davis, everyone’s always told me I have a way with words, Hare, was phenomenal in his Bananas debut, as the Pride of Florida State retired all 9 Blowfish he faced, throwing just 21 pitches in 3 scoreless frames. Davis was as well-spoken as ever when I asked him about his first outing for the Bananas.

“It was fun,” Hare said.

I couldn’t have described it any better myself.

The Bananas offense was relentless in the nightcap, pushing 3 more runs across as they batted around in the 4th inning, and then piling on 8 more in the 7th as they sent 12 guys to the plate. Ty, Danny, Bryson, Drew, don’t let the kid get hot, Yniesta, and Leroy, all had 2 hits a piece. Dylan Cunningham put away the 14-1 victory with a perfect 7th inning on the mound, striking out 1.

Benches and bullpens had cleared in the middle of the 4th inning, as a Lexington County coach and player both had insanely strong words for Danny Oberst who by all accounts was minding his own business at 1st base, and also who in my professional opinion is literally the last person in this league you should be saying any nonsense to. There was some fun banter from both sides, nothing remotely close to a tussle ever occurred, and the Bananas let their bats do the talking throughout the rest of the night as they drubbed the Blowfish in a most satisfying way according to my sources.

So all in all, the Bananas went 4-2 in their crazy 6 games in only 4 days week and they currently sit atop the CPL with a 19-3 record at the season’s halfway point. What an unbelievably fun ride it has been so far, although it feels like this team has just hit the tip of the iceberg of its potential. Who knows, a lot can happen between now and August 1st, when the Bananas will welcome a 2nd half division champion into Historic Grayson Stadium to start up the battle for the Petitt Cup, but to quote Reginald Horton’s favorite basketball plater of all-time, “The ceiling is the roof.”

The Bananas welcome their best pals the Blowfish into town on Tuesday the 29th. The pregame show will start at 6:30pm eastern, with first pitch coming in at 7:00. Can’t wait to see what these guys do to the league in the 2nd half.

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