WICHITA, Kan. (Sep. 3, 2018) – After a third consecutive season of at least 60 wins, the Wichita Wingnuts found themselves well represented on the 2018 American Association Post-Season All-Star team. The league announced Monday that Travis Banwart has been named Pitcher of the Year, Daniel Tillman secured Reliever of the Year, and Logan Watkins earned the nod as All-Star second baseman.
Banwart leads the league with a 2.24 ERA, more than half a run better than the next active pitcher. He is on pace to set the Wingnuts single-season record for ERA, currently just ahead of Nick Singleton’s 2.36 mark from the 2010 season. The former Wichita State University standout has proven remarkably consistent at the top of the Wingnuts rotation, allowing more than two earned runs in only three of his 20 starts. At Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Banwart was virtually untouchable, surrendering just 10 runs in 49 innings for a 1.84 ERA in eight starts.
The right-hander was at his best against some of the league’s toughest competition, going eight shutout innings against the Sioux City Explorers on August 7 and working eight innings of one-run ball against Kansas City in his last start on August 29. His best outing of the season may have been against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks on June 24, when he fired seven shutout frames with a season-high nine strikeouts. Banwart has racked up 109 punchouts on the season, the sixth-most in the American Association this season and the fifth-most in Wingnuts single-season history.
Banwart’s award is the first Pitcher of the Year recognition for the Wingnuts since the 2012 season, when Josh Lowey took home the honor. Derek Blacksher and Brad Davis were named Right-Handed Pitcher of the Year and Left-Handed Pitcher of the Year in 2009.
Tillman produced a record-setting 2018 campaign upon his return from a major shoulder surgery that kept him away from professional baseball for nearly two full seasons. Operating as the Wingnuts closer, Tillman leads the league with 27 saves, a mark that is tied for the most in Wingnuts single-season history with Josh Dew’s 2013 total. In 40 relief appearances, the former Milwaukee Brewers minor leaguer notched a 2.26 ERA with an outstanding 54-to-11 strikeout-walk ratio, holding opponents to a .220 batting average.
Tillman’s best stretch of the season began in mid-July, when he worked 15 consecutive scoreless outings. The Florida Southern alum went more than a full calendar month without allowing a hit, and did not have a single outing this season in which he issued more than one unintentional walk. This is the first time a Wingnuts pitcher has won Reliever of the Year.
Watkins put together a phenomenal season at the plate and in the field, leading the club with a .335 batting average that ranks third in the American Association. His 140 hits are currently tied for the most in a single season in club history, matching the output of Greg Porter in 2009 and Juan Richardson in 2011. The former major leaguer has scored 61 runs and driven home 51 more while batting out of the leadoff spot, adding 23 doubles, four home runs and a league-leading 10 triples. Watkins also contributed to the league’s most efficient baserunning unit with 26 steals in 32 attempts, ranking top five in the league.
Watkins has committed only six errors in 99 games played, having also spent time at shortstop and in the outfield. He joins Tony Thomas as the only other Wingnuts player to play in every regular season game during the 2018 campaign. He is the first Wichita All-Star second baseman since Jake Kahaulelio in 2013.
The Wingnuts conclude the 2018 season and the series against the Sioux City Explorers on Monday afternoon. It will be the final game in the history of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 PM, and will be broadcast on 1410 AM/93.9 FM KGSO, TuneIn and americanassociationbaseball.tv.
For information on season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Wingnuts main office at (316) 264-NUTS, or visit the Wingnuts official website at www.wichitawingnuts.com.