T-Bones name 2014 award winners

Coming off an eight-game improvement from a year ago, the Kansas City T-Bones and manager John Massarelli announced the club’s top performers for 2014.

The award winners include Kris Regas, most valuable player; Vladimir Frias, defensive player of the year; T.J. Mittelstaedt, newcomer of the new; Robby Kuzdale, most improved player of the year; and Danny Richar, comeback player of the year.

T-Bones officials said they were key components to the T-Bones finishing the season with a 48-52 record, including a season-ending six-game winning streak.

As a reliever, Regas set the T-Bones single-season club record for saves with 22, which was tied for third in the American Association this season. He led the T-Bones with a 2.70 ERA and tied for the most wins (7). Regas was the lone T-Bones representative at the American Association All-Star Game in late July.

“Regas easily was our most consistent pitcher all season,” Massarelli said. “With 22 saves and seven wins he accounted for 29 of our 48 wins this summer.”

Frias gave Kansas City consistency at shortstop, playing 91 games (90 starts). Besides finishing fourth on the club with a .273 batting average, Frias had a .954 fielding percentage with 23 errors and 497 chances. He had a team-high 301 assists and turned a team-best 68 double plays.

“Vladdy is a very athletic and exciting defender who has the potential to become one of the top players in the American Association,” said Massarelli.

After joining Kansas City from the Milwaukee Brewers organization, Mittelstaedt was projected as a utility player this season for the T-Bones. He ended up being the only Kansas City player this season to play in all 100 games, 75 of which were at third base. Leading off most of the year, Mittelstaedt reached base in 94 of the club’s 100 games, including all 51 games at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. He finished the season with 94 hits, including a club-best 16 home runs, and led the American Association with 92 walks.

“Mittelstaedt was a great lead-off hitter for us, which is evident from his 92 walks,” Massarelli said. “It’s incredible to reach base in all but six games, but even more impressive is getting on base in all 51 home games. He was our most valuable player on offense.”

Kuzdale, who was in centerfield for 96 games, finished the season with Kansas City’s third-highest batting average at .275. That alone may not seem impressive, but that’s a .095 swing from where he sat in late June when his average was a season-low .180 on the 22nd. Kuzdale’s surge included a 14-game hitting streak that started on July 10 and ended on July 26.

“Kooz is one of the hardest workers on the ball club who showed solid improvement over 100 games,” said Massarelli. “Look for bigger and better things to come from this young player.”

Originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, Richar played in 56 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2007, and 23 games for the Cincinnati Reds during the ’08 and ’09 seasons. Richar missed the 2012 and ’13 seasons because of a knee injury. In 83 games with the T-Bones this year, he batted .272 with 90 hits, and led the club with eight triples (third in the American Association) and 61 RBIs. Richar solidified second base for Kansas City, committing only six errors in 79 games en route to a .984 fielding percentage.

“Richar was a great leader-by-example for us,” Massarelli said. “He was consistent defensively and, as someone near the top of the lineup for most of the season, he was a solid bat that would do whatever he needed to score guys or get them in scoring position.”

– Story from T-Bones

Sporting KC moves atop CCL group with 3-1 win over Deportivo Saprissa

Sporting Kansas City moved atop the Group 2 standings in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League with a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Thursday.

Antonio Dovale scored twice in the second half and now has three goals in the tournament, while Dom Dwyer converted a first half penalty kick for his 20th goal in all competition this season.

Dwyer gave Sporting Kansas City an early 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. Benny Feilhaber was brought down in the penalty area by Saprissa goalkeeper Dany Alvarez after combining with Dwyer on a give-and-go that unlocked the defense. Referee Fernando Guerrero pointed to the spot and Dwyer sent a powerful shot to his right for his seventh successful penalty kick of the season.

Dwyer, who also scored in last year’s edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, has now scored in each of his last four appearances. On Tuesday, the first 10,000 fans inside Sporting Park for Sporting Kansas City’s CCL match-up with Real Esteli FC will receive a limited edition poster courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City to celebrate Dwyer’s record-setting season.

The Englishman nearly struck again on two occasions in the minutes following his penalty kick. His header off a Graham Zusi corner kick was directed just wide in the 16th minute and the two connected again three minutes later only for Alvarez to thwart Dwyer with a superb save in the one-on-one situation.

On the opposite end, Sporting KC goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum raced off his line in the 18th minute to challenge Ariel Rodriguez outside the area on a ball played behind the backline by Manfred Russell. Gruenebaum timed his tackle well, however the ball came off Rodriguez last and rolled perilously wide of the empty net.

Sporting Kansas City threatened to double their lead less than 20 minutes into the encounter as Zusi forced a sprawling stop from Alvarez on his long-distance strike from 35 yards out. Nevertheless, it was the visitors who found the coveted equalizer in the 28th minute from the foot of Juan Bustos. Saprissa’s long throw into the penalty area fell to Daniel Colindres, who laid the ball back for Bustos to set up a thunderous, left-footed shot inside the far post.

The final scoring opportunity of the first half would come off a corner kick taken by Dovale and headed on frame by Dwyer. Alvarez dove low to his right to push away the shot, though Jorge Claros was first to the loose ball and struck a first-time shot off the post from a tight angle near the end line.

In search of the go-ahead goal, Saprissa nearly surprised the hosts at the start of the second half. Rodriguez, who had scored four goals in his previous two CCL matches, found time and space inside the area but pushed his shot wide of the post.

Sporting KC would take control for the remainder of the fixture on a night when the reigning MLS Cup champions outshot their opposition 17-7 with a 10-2 advantage in shots on goal. Dovale showed a glimpse of the goals to come with a shot aimed inside the near post in the 54th minute that required a full-extension save from Alvarez.

Fifteen minutes later, Dovale found the back of the net with his first of two goals in a seven-minute span. Zusi’s cross-field switch connected with Igor Juliao along the right flank and the Brazilian outside back promptly sent the ball looping into the area with his first touch. Dovale took it out of the air with a full volley from just inside the edge of the 18-yard box for the game-winning goal.

Dovale completed his double in the 76th minute with an emphatic finish at the back post. The cross from Dwyer was ever-so-slightly touched by Feilhaber in the center of the goalmouth and came to the waiting Spaniard, who made no mistake in sending his shot into the roof of the net.

Sporting Kansas City’s victory marked only the second time in club history that the team scored three goals in a competitive international match and the first such three-goal game since the 2001 Copa Merconorte. Dovale’s three goals in international competition are second most by a KC player all-time, tied with Roy Lassister and one behind Chris Brown.

Thursday’s win was the first against a Costa Rican opponent in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League and leaves the two sides level with four points in the Group 2 standings. Sporting KC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker and will next face Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli on Tuesday at Sporting Park before the rematch with Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica on Oct. 23.
– Story from Sporting KC