TRAVERSE CITY — The second season begins tonight for the Traverse City Beach Bums.
The team departs this morning for Avon, Ohio, where the Beach Bums will face the Lake Erie Crushers in an opening round game in the Frontier League playoffs. Lake Erie edged Traverse City by one game to win the East Division. The Beach Bums, who finished 55-41, earned one of the two wild card berths.
“We’re excited to go,” Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn said.
The two teams just concluded a three-game season-ending series in Ohio. The Crushers took the first two games — to clinch the division — while Traverse City won Thursday night, ending an 11-game road losing streak. Five of those losses came at Lake Erie, which made Thursday’s triumph a relief and, Langbehn hopes, a prelude this series.
“For me, that was a big one,” Langbehn said. “It was significant. It felt good to win one there. Will it carry over? I don’t know.”
The Beach Bums will open with Scott Dunn, the Frontier League’s Pitcher of the Year, in Game One, which starts at 7:05. Dunn is 15-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Left-hander Dave Middendorf, who is 12-7 with a 2.60 ERA will start for the Crushers. Johnny Omahen, 8-9 with a 3.37 ERA, gets the call on Sunday for Traverse City.
Langbehn expects a low scoring series.
“These are the top two pitching staffs in the league,” he said. “Their pitching is very good. So is ours.”
As for that 11-game road skid, it was not like the Beach Bums played poorly. Traverse City led in seven of those 11 games, going into at least the fifth inning.
“It was excruciating,” Langbehn said of the streak. “But even with that 11-game losing streak we still got in the playoffs. What that tells me is that we played some really good ball for a long time.”
Langbehn said the league was as “competitive” as he’s seen. Nine of the 14 teams won at least 50 games.
“A few weeks ago we were talking internally that a lot of teams had a chance to win it all this season,” Langbehn said. “We said then it would take 55 wins to get in, and that’s exactly what we got.”
Traverse City can take comfort in the fact a wild card team — Southern Illinois — won it all in 2012. In fact, the Miners needed some luck to even qualify on the last day of the regular season. En route to the title, Southern Illinois beat top-seed Traverse City in round one.