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Great Falls: A Year in Review


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Great Falls: A Year in Review

By Evan Solon



It was a season of ups and downs for the Great Falls White Sox. They started off the season fairly well with a record of 7-5 in the first 2 weeks of the season. However, by the end of the first half of the season, they found themselves at 17-20, and well behind 1st place Billings in the Pioneer League’s Northern Division. However, in the break between the first half of the season and the second half, something must have happened because the Sox came out hot and never looked back. They went 25-13 in the second half of the season, and finished in 1st place, 7 games ahead of 2nd place Helena.


Even through the ups and downs, the loyal fans in Great Falls, MT, consistently attended games, as the Sox attendance average stayed just below or above 3,000 per game the entire season. With 109,779 total fans by the end of the season, Great Falls finished 2nd in the league in attendance behind Odgen. To show how good the attendance really was: Great Falls averaged about 1,000 more fans per game than our own High-A Winston-Salem club.


Offensively, there were many solid contributors, including Tom Collaro, Chris Kelly, Boomer Berry, and Ryan McCarthy. The 6-foot-4 Collaro, who led Great Falls in all major offensive categories except batting average and doubles, was repeating rookie league ball this year. The big, right-hander sported a .287 BA, with 18 HR, which was good enough for 2nd in the Pioneer League, 67 RBI, 6 triples, and had 48 runs scored. While the outfielder’s stats may look good, he can not be considered a top prospect due to his age (21) and his repeat of rookie ball.


Kelly, a first baseman who is considered undersized by many, led the Sox with a .315 BA, while appearing in 65 games, 2nd most among players. The 22-year-old righty also hit 11 HR, 51 RBI, 14 2B, and scored 45 runs, mainly out of the #4 spot in the line-up. To go along with his good offensive production, Kelly played solid defensively at first.


Berry was a free agent pick-up before the season, and did that move pay off. The 23-year-old out of Central Missouri State hit mostly from the leadoff spot all season and did a very good job. He hit .307, with 55 runs scored, which led the team, and 29 RBI. He also swiped 14 bases, while only getting thrown out 3 times.


Last, but certainly not least, is Ricks, who joined the Sox after his Miami team was bounced from the College World Series. While appearing in 52 games for the Sox, the switch-hitter hit .305, with 3 HR, 20 2B (most on team), 28 RBI, and scored 38 runs. The only real negative to say about the 5-foot-10 infielder is that his 16 errors were kind of a lot. However, it is common for first year players to commit a large amount of errors like that, so there’s no need to worry.


Pitching-wise, Great Falls was led by starters Ray Liotta and Garry Bakker, reliever Demetrius Banks, and part time starter/reliever Adam Russell. Liotta, who was drafted this year out of Gulf Coast Community College, led the Sox with a 5-1 record and a 2.54 ERA. The 6-foot-3 southpaw also struck out 65 in 63.2 IP, while only giving up 59 hits. However, he did walk 28, which is a little high.


Bakker, who got the first start of the playoffs, had a good season, but his flashes of dominance, at times, is what gets him mentioned. The 6-foot-2 righty, out of North Carolina, was 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 64 IP. He also had a WHIP of 1.38. In my opinion, Bakker is a guy to watch out for, even though he didn’t put up the greatest numbers this year. Watch out for him next year, when he will most likely be in Kannapolis’ starting rotation.


Russell performed great all season for the Sox, whether as a reliever, or as a starter, which he became late in the season. After being drafted in the 8th round in this year’s draft, the 6-foot-8, 250 lb. Russell, who looks more like a Power Forward in basketball than a baseball player, went 4-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 15 appearances (4 starts). The huge righty out of Ohio also struck out 33 in 38 IP, while walking 18. While neither his strikeout nor walk numbers are great, you definitely can’t argue his effectiveness.


Banks, who made 21 appearances out of the ‘pen, was drafted in 2002 out of Chattahoochee Valley Community College (Al.). The 6-foot southpaw was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 36 IP. He also recorded a very solid 48 strikeouts, against 22 walks. Banks is definitely another guy to watch out for in the upcoming years.

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