The First Two Weeks in BananaLand

Written by Biko Skalla:


Well this has been a rather fun way to start the 2021 season, aye? The Nanner’s are off to their best start by far in franchise history rolling off 7 straight wins. The defense has been stellar. The pitching has been incredible. And the hitting has been better than the pitching and defense combined (maybe an exaggeration but a start like this means it’s time to get crazy with the takes). The real question we should all be asking ourselves is if the Bananas will ever actually lose a game this summer… I don’t know I guess they probably will, but I’m not gonna be the one that doubted such a feat two weeks into the season when they’ve gone 49-0 and are hoisting the Petitt Cup in August. Alright, alright I’ll settle down, but there’s no reason not to be incredibly excited about the boys performance thus far. 

Some would try to tell you the seven-game winning streak started on Opening Day but they in fact would be wrong. The juice started swirling three days before the boys suited up in the unripe green unis. After a Sunday batting practice, the fellas had their first real Bananas practice on Monday and then spent four hours acting in an original Bananas music video.

Tuesday was another full practice followed by a couple hours of “Bananas Orientation” where the guys learned everything from classic promotions to the JK Wedding Intro for Opening Day. Then after a full practice on Wednesday (can’t forget the numerous Tik Toks and whacky head shots that occurred at one time or another), Opening Day came around on Thursday and the winning on the field began…

Well before the guys could truly get to their winning ways, they took some time to realign their chakras and calm the nerves in the locker room…

The actual baseball part of the season started out 2-0 Bacon before the Bananas even got to get their hands on any lumber. A couple innings later it was none other than four-year Banana, Bill Leroy driving in the first friendly run of the season with an RBI single. With the game knotted at two in the bottom of the 3rd, third-year Banana and 2021 Gulf South Conference Player of the Year, Danny Oberst hit his first career Bananas home run. First year Nanner’ Brayden Gainey tossed a beefy four shutout innings of relief, striking out 6 and retiring the last 9 hitters he faced. The heart of the Bananas (better known as the weirdest man in Chatham County), in his second summer in Savannah, Nick Clarno ripped a very clutch and very hilarious (gunned down about 20 steps short of home plate trying to make it an inside-the-parker), 2-run triple to left for a couple huge insurance runs and the flamethrower from Valdosta State, Jakob Barker tossed 1.2 hitless innings with a trifecta of K’s for the save. Nanner’s win 6-3, 1-0 on the season. Player of the Game, Danny Oberst chatted with me about the opening night victory while the runner-up to the accolade Nick Clarno gave him a massage…

Friday the Blowfish that haileth from Lexington County came to town with the sole purpose of getting a hit off Kyle Luigs. They failed in their quest. The fourth-year Banana and best looking man this side of the Mississippi, tossed 4 hitless innings, making it 13.1 scoreless in a row dating back to his legendary final week in 2020.

Kyle’s battery mate, the man maniacally laughing while he was rounding the bases in the clip above, and his best friend in the entire world (cute right), Bill Leroy stroked an RBI double down the right field line to give Savannah the lead in the 2nd inning. The Nanner’s bullpen followed Luigs’ gem with more Blowfish baffling nastiness. Tom Vincent, fresh out of College Station, K’d three Fish in 2 shutout innings. Knicko Billings (yes he’s named after the New York Knicks, yes it’s awesome, and yes I love having a fellow “EEKO” with me in the ballpark), struck out 1 Fish in his scoreless frame. Then the Bayou Big Boi, the Louisiana Lumberjack, the Albany Assassin, Dylan Cunningham snagged the CPL pitching line of the night striking out the first 5 guys he faced and getting a little flare to 2nd to end the ballgame. (Shoutout Livan Reinoso for knocking in Eduardo Malinowski on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the 8th for a pinch of insurance). Nanner’s win 2-0, improve to 2-0. 

The Bananas had to leave the friendly confines of Historic Grayson Stadium Saturday to travel west on I-16 to take on the MAAAAAACON BAAAAAAAAACON (Macon PA announcer voice, the real ones know). The vibes on the bus were impeccable, and while the full story of the trip was told On Bananas Unpeeled, the best part of it all was Nick Clarno’s unbelievable karaoke performances…

 Gotta be honest though, a few innings in I kind of felt like the boys were gonna lose this one. Mr. Ivy League himself, (also shoutout to the other Pride of UPENN Mr. Malinowski), Joe Miller tossed a savvy 4 innings of 2-run ball. With the Bacon up 3-0 in the 6th the baddest boy to ever grace the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne, Nick Clarno lined a ball to left for a sac-fly. With 2nd-year Nanner Drew Yniesta on 1st and Eddie on 3rd with 2 outs, the Bananas pulled the ole’ guy on 1st steals but stops halfway between 1st and 2nd and the guy on 3rd scores easily when the throw goes to 2nd and then the guy between 1st and 2nd survives the pickle long enough to run into a fielder who doesn’t have the ball which is clearly fielder’s interference so the runner gets 2nd base. Oldest trick in the book. The Bacon pushed a run across in the 6th to take a 4-2 lead, setting up the Most Electric Man to Walk the Hallowed Grounds of Historic Grayson Stadium, Ty Jackson, three games into his Bananas career to go YABO to left field. The Bacon snagged another run in the 7th to go up 5-3, and then the top of the 8th inning happened. Quite possibly the most important inning thus far in my year plus with the Bananas… It goes: Livan walk. Drew double down the left field line. Clarno RBI groundout to short. Chase Achuff’s first hit as a Banana, an RBI single to right to tie the game at 5-5. Bill Leroy TWO RUN HOME RUN!

Not only was it the Bananas first lead of the night, it was Leroy’s first home run in four years as a Banana, and it was a BOMB. The fellas in the bullpen were quoted saying it went over the fence encasing the parking lot in left field about 50 feet behind them. It was a legit, well over 400 foot blast, about as far as the man could ever possibly hit a baseball according to Bill himself. And then with their first lead of the night the Bananas turned to Jakob Barker once again who simply gave them a 6 out, 4 strikeout save and they stole game 3 in Macon 7-5. Nanner’s 3-0. 

After the come-from-behind victory in Macon, the next four games were drubbing SZN. The boys got a couple well deserved off days and came back to Grayson on Tuesday with Nathan Dettmer making his 1st start for Savannah in only his second day in town after reporting from Texas A&M. One of the more exciting young arms in college baseball, Nathan faced 7 Macon batters in the 1st but escaped a bases loaded jam to limit the damage to just 1 run. That run was matched by the Bananas two batters into their order, with Eduardo Malinowski executing quite possibly the coolest combination of home run, bat flip, and celebration in the team’s 6 year history.

All Eddie’s 382 foot tank to left field did was ignite a rally of 6-straight hits: Oberst single, Reinoso ground rule double, Yniesta RBI single, Achuff RBI single, Leroy single, Clarno hard grounder into 6-4-3 double play (I mean someone had to end the fun at some point). When all was said and done the Bananas were up 4-1 and an inning later I had one of the proudest moments in my Broadcast Entertaining career when my Coordinating Producer Emma Madsen snuck this graphic onto the stream.

Okay back to baseball. Dettmer tossed a scoreless inning. Gainey came in and threw 3 more scoreless frames with 5 more strikeouts, bringing his season total to 7 innings without a run while striking out 11 (not too bad). The 7-footer Jared Beck munched up an inning and a third of work, with the 6-3 footer (doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well) Dylan Cunningham coming in for 1.2 hitless innings striking out the first 4 batters he faced (should have been all 5, check the tape). Oh and the Bananas scored 3 more runs in the 3rd, 2 more in the 4th, and 2 more in the 7th on Danny Oberst’s team high 2nd bombaroony of the summer.

Eduardo Malinowski had the CPL hitting line of the night, going 3-4 with a homer, double, walk, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, and a steal…. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good! Nanner’s win 11-4, improve to 4-0.

After a day off, Nick Clarno took a much different approach to the team’ s pregame preparation, this time trying to keep the energy up for everyone.

After the heavy metal in the locker room, Kyle Luigs took the mound on Thursday, once again against the Blowfish at home. After a couple scoreless innings the skies opened up and about an hour and 15 minute rain delay commenced. That was wild as ever of course, with Banana in the Pants, a Sing Off, a Conga Line, players tarp sliding and jousting against Blowfish players, Maceo breakdancing on soaked tarp (one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen), and much much more. Luigs came back out and had to shake off the rust off after not pitching for nearly an hour and and a half and he gave up his first run in 15.2 innings for the Bananas. He would all in all end up tossing 5 innings of 1 hit, 1 run, 7 strikeout baseball (an acceptable performance I guess). The Nanner’s tied the game in the 4th on a Danny Oberst RBI double and took the lead in the 5th with a classic RBI fielder’s choice on a bouncer to the 2nd baseman where Jacob Pierce was too fast to be thrown out at 2nd and then Ty Jackson was too fast to be thrown out at 1st. Another way to put it would be a disastrophe for Lexington County. Then Danny had a bases loaded walk, Livan Reinoso smacked a 2-run single and that was basically all she wrote. Tom Vincent tossed a couple scoreless frames in relief, the Blowfish scratched a few runs off Christian Dearman in his inning of work, but then the meanest man to take the mound on the Eastern Seaboard, Jakob Barker came in for a 1-2-3 9th inning and his 3rd save in 3 opportunities. When all was said and done, Mr. Oberst had gone 2-4 with 4 RBI’s, a walk and a steal, and the Nanner’s won 8-5, improving to 5-0. I interrupted Luigs’ postgame shower to ask him a few questions about the game…

Oh I forgot to mention that this entire week was Bananas camp so about a dozen players and all the coaches had to be at the field Monday-Friday from around 8:00am to noon teaching the youth the great game of baseball.

Anyhow, Friday rolled around and the Bananas had to shipped up to Lexington County. Joe Miller’s second start of the summer was superb, striking out 9 in 4.2 innings with only 1 earned run (should have been zero runs and 5 innings plus but a can of corn to right field disappeared into the night and fell untouched for an RBI double). Anyhow, the Bananas defense was a little shaky pants at times but it never felt like a problem with the way the guys continued to hit. A 4-run 2nd inning capped off by an Eddie Malinowski 2-run single and then Nick Clarno’s second sac fly in as many innings a frame later gave the good guys 5-1 edge. Things got a little exciting with the Nanner’s defense gifting the Blowfish a run in the 2nd and 3 more in the 5th to make it a 5-4 game, but it was not a tight affair for long. In the 7th the Bananas brought 10 guys to the dish for the second time that evening (creating chaos in my scorebook), with Oberst, Reinoso, Achuff, Kitchen (in his Bananas debut), Leroy, and Clarno all coming around to score to blow the game open. Second year Banana and the burliest man on the bus, Hunter Goodwin tossed 1.1 scoreless innings in relief, the nearly infallible Brayden Gainey finally showed he was mortal with a couple runs (only one earned) in his inning of work, and then the tallest guy anywhere from Savannah to Lexington, Jared Beck threw 2 scoreless frames to shut to door on an 11-6 victory as Danny Oberst went 4-5 at the dish and the Nanner’s improved to 6-0.

On Saturday the fellas returned to the friendly confines of Historic Grayson Stadium to take on the fierce 0-5 Macon Bacon. Although not technically a “Bananas Pregame Ritual”, it was another loosey goosey locker room with the boys going crazy to a little “Good 4 U”.

Cole Kitchen, who was red hot in his Bananas hitting debut the night before going 2-4 with a walk and a couple runs scored, got the call from Corey Pye and Tyler Gillum to see what he could do on the mound. What the California Kid did was consistently pound the zone with 91-93 MPH heaters in 5 innings of 5 strikeout, 2 run baseball. It was once again a pummeling from the Bananas offense with 3 runs in the 2nd, 2 in the 3rd, 2 in the 4th, 1 in the 5th, 1 in the 6th, and 1 in the 8th. Knicko, Please Don’t Talk to Me or Biko About the Knicks-Hawks Series, Billings threw the heck out of 3 scoreless innings striking out 6 Bacon while only allowing 1 hit and retiring the last 8 guys he faced. Everybody in the lineup was in on the fun one way or another, but the most interesting stat line of the night was Danny Oberst who was 0-4 with 1 RBI, 3 runs scored, a stolen base. “Well Biko, what’s so interesting about that?” I’m sure you’re wondering how he went 0-4 with 3 runs scored. That looks a little odd to you now doesn’t it? He didn’t walk at all, so what the heck happened?! Danny reached base 3 times on THREE errors by Bacon 3rd baseman Niklovs Levensteins (sorry Niklovs but it’s a pretty incredible feat). So anyways, the Nanner’s win 10-4 and improve to 7-0. Gillum and the Player of the Game Livan Reinoso who had a 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored evening, were kind enough to answer some questions from the local media after the game…

This is where we stand now, with the boys shipping out to Macon today (Sunday) and Lexington County tomorrow before welcoming the Spartanburgers into town for the first time on Wednesday. That will kick off four straight games as the Bananas play 9 in 10 days here. Experts may say that the team is bound to lose at some point along the road but I say fooey to this negativity and tell any such thinkers to go and boil their bottoms, for they are sons and daughters of silly people. Also, this was a fun little thing to do, I think I’ll do it again next week!

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