BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Beach Bums 2011 season went down to the wire — and then some.
The Beach Bums went into their final game of the regular season — game No. 96 — with a playoff spot on the line at Wuerfel Park. The contest ended up going into extra innings before Lake Erie pulled out a 3-1 victory, edging Traverse City for a playoff berth by a half-game.
The Beach Bums' journey to the precipice of a playoff position is No. 7 on the Record-Eagle's top local sports stories of 2011.
Although it was a heartbreaking finish for the team, the Beach Bums had plenty of individual accomplishments to celebrate.
Three Traverse City players finished the Frontier League season in the top 10 in home runs. J.T. Hall was second with 23 (one behind league leader Charlie Lisk) while Chase Burch and Stephen Shults tied for ninth with 17 each. Shults, the 2010 Frontier home run leader, hit four of his homers with TC after being acquired from Florence.
Other top-10 performances included Jose Vargas (second in doubles with 28), Hector Bernal (seventh in triples with five), Hall (sixth in RBIs with 75), Zach Pace (ninth in walks with 51), Burch (fourth in walks with 58), Scott Dunn (sixth in ERA at 2.58), Bryan Banes (10th in ERA at 3.07 and ninth in wins with 10), David Nathanson (fifth in complete games with three) and All-Star closer Scott Mueller (third in saves with 21).
The Bums were third in home runs, but only seventh in runs scored, in part due to a team batting average of .254 and on-base percentage of .332, both of which were third worst in the 12-team league.
But Traverse City could have a power-laden lineup if the team is able to keep Burch and Shults. Jeff Flagg has already re-signed for next season. The franchise has also re-signed pitchers Dunn, Mueller, Jeff Cinadr, Rick Raraigh and David Deminsky for next season, as well as infielders Sean Gusrang and Tom Zebroski and catcher Chris Kay. The team traded away outfielder Zach Pace and Banes.