2012 Season Review: RailCats Finished Strong, Fell Short of Playoffs

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

GARY, Ind. — The 2012 Gary SouthShore RailCats had a rollercoaster season that resulted in a 50-50 record as they missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season. RailCats skipper Greg Tagert kept his streak intact of 17 seasons without a losing record. However, for the first time in his managerial career, Tagert’s club did not finish with a winning record.

Despite falling short of the playoffs, the RailCats tied for the second-best record in the month of August, going 19-9. After falling to 16-28, they were 34-22 from July 4 through the end of the season. That was the second-best record in the league behind Fargo-Moorhead after Independence Day.

Going into spring training, Tagert assembled a team that consisted of some of the cornerstones of the franchise; outfielders Mike Massaro and Adam Klein returned along with infielders Mike Rohde and Chris Carrara. While 11 players returned from the 2011 club, Tagert also brought in several experienced newcomers to solidify a team that fell just a game short of the playoffs in 2011 and was primed to contend for a title in 2012. These players included Rico Washington, a former Major Leaguer who was acquired in a trade late in the 2011 season, Jason James, a three-time All-Star and one of the best hitters in the history of the Frontier League, and Mike Coles, a Hammond, Ind., native who played for the RailCats as a rookie in 2006.

Other notable players on the Opening Day roster included returning infielders Kyle Haines and Brian Kolb, catcher Craig Maddox and returning pitchers Will Krout, Nolan Nicholson and T.J. Wohlever. Speedy infielder David Cooper was added to the mix and veteran pitcher Andrew Johnston, who reached Triple-A as a reliever in the Colorado Rockies’ organization, was signed and converted to a starting pitcher.


The RailCats began the season on the road and rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat St. Paul 5-4 in a thrilling season-opening victory. The ‘Cats snapped a 2-2 tie with three runs in the eighth inning in the win. After splitting their opening four-game series, the RailCats matched a franchise record with 17 runs in a 17-8 drubbing of Kansas City on May 23. Rico Washington, who was acquired in a trade with the T-Bones the previous season, was 4-for-6 with a homer and five RBI in the outburst. The RailCats finished their opening road trip with a respectable 4-3 record.

The club came home to U. S. Steel Yard, opening the 10th season of the ballpark with a 3-1 loss to Wichita. Jason James then shocked the club by retiring the next day, a sign of things to come. The Wingnuts went on to sweep the series. The RailCats picked up their first home win on May 28 with another offensive explosion in a 16-7 win over Sioux Falls. Mike Massaro was 4-for-5 with a triple and five RBI while Chris Carrara drove in four runs.

The ‘Cats took the series from the Pheasants on a memorable day at the Steel Yard on May 30 as Tagert earned his 800th career win as a manager. Adam Klein also made history, setting an American Association single-game record with nine putouts by an outfielder. Klein also had two hits and three RBI in the 8-4 victory.

The RailCats began the month of June by dropping four out of six on the road in Winnipeg and Sioux Falls to fall to 8-11 on the season. They welcomed the Newark Bears of the Can-Am League to town for their first-ever interleague series, as the league had announced interleague play prior to the season. The RailCats welcomed interleague play by scoring a franchise-record 20 runs on June 8 in a 20-10 thrashing of the Bears. Massaro had four hits and three RBI while Klein and Washington had four RBI apiece.

Morgan Coombs, a rookie pitcher out of Ball State, delivered one of the year’s most spectacular pitching performances on June 11 against Wichita. He retired the first 17 batters he faced, as he was perfect through 5 2/3 innings before Mike Conroy broke it up with a two-out double in the sixth inning. In all, Coombs tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed just one hit in the 6-0 victory. The RailCats took two of three from first-place Wichita to finish a 5-2 homestand with a record of 13-13, sitting in second place, six games back in the Central Division.

The RailCats hit the road for Texas, a trip that started a downward spiral for the team. Washington retired on June 15 before the trip started, and the RailCats had lost two key experienced players in James and Washington to retirement just one month into the season. Starting pitcher Andrew Johnston was also placed on the inactive list with a back injury that would sideline him for two months. The RailCats were swept in Amarillo and lost two of three at Laredo. To make matters even worse, the RailCats’ bus suffered a total of four flat tires on their way to and from Laredo, adding on hours to what was already the longest trip of the season.

The ‘Cats returned home and scored a season-high nine runs in the first inning in a 10-7 win over Lincoln on June 22. However, they would go on to lose that series and five of seven games on the homestand. On June 27, veteran infielder Kyle Haines was traded to York in the Atlantic League for future considerations, the first move in a rebuilding effort. The trade opened up playing time for younger infielders Chris Carrara, David Cooper and Brian Kolb, who each thrived following the trade.

They traveled to Sioux Falls on June 30 and were swept in a four-game series before the RailCats went to Sioux City and dropped game one of that series for their seventh consecutive loss. The RailCats had lost 15 of 18 games to fall to 16-28, their low mark of the season and the worst record at any point in a season by a RailCats team since Tagert took over as the skipper in 2005.


The RailCats entered the Fourth of July with a 16-28 record, and they were 15.5 games behind first-place Wichita in the standings. They provided fireworks of their own in their game that night against Sioux City, scoring 14 runs as Mike Coles had four RBI and newly-acquired Sean Henry had a home run and four RBI in a 14-9 victory to end the seven-game losing streak. The RailCats lost the next day but split the series on July 6, as Chris Carrara was 4-for-5 with three RBI to lead the ‘Cats to a 13-3 win over Sioux City. It was Tagert’s 400th win as the RailCats manager.

When they returned home, the RailCats started winning in dramatic fashion. On July 7, Kolb hit a walk-off infield single down the line at third, staying fair on the chalk to seal a 5-4 win over Lincoln in 11 innings. Two nights later, Klein hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning. In the finale of the four game series, the RailCats broke a 3-3 tie with six runs in the eighth inning in a 9-3 victory.

The late-inning heroics continued on an 11-game Can-Am road trip to play interleague games against teams on the East coast. After falling in their first game against Worcester, catcher Ryan Babineau hit a two-run homer to cap a five-run eighth inning for the RailCats in a 7-6 comeback win. The RailCats trailed 6-2 entering the inning, as they rallied from four runs down in their biggest come-from-behind win of the year. It was just Babineau’s second career homer, and first since 2008. Then, in an improbable twist, Babineau hit another go-ahead home run the following night, this time in the ninth inning for a 6-5 win. Starting pitcher Stephen Hiscock led the RailCats to a shutout win in the series finale as they took three of four games, winning three straight for the first time all season. That was despite half the team becoming ill with a stomach bug during that series, which forced relief pitcher Nolan Nicholson to become the designated hitter for two games. The RailCats dropped two of three in Quebec but won three of four against New Jersey to finish a successful trip with a 7-4 record.

Gary came home on July 24 and Will Krout threw a four-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Sioux City. It was the only complete game shutout by a RailCats pitcher all season and the first in over a year. The ‘Cats took two of three from Sioux City but then were swept in their only three games of the season against Fargo-Moorhead. On August 1, Craig Maddox hit the only grand slam of the season for the RailCats in a 9-4 win at Sioux City. It would start a productive month for Maddox, who hit four of the RailCats’ six home runs in the month and had 18 RBI, second-best on the team.

When they returned home, the ‘Cats took three out of four from St. Paul, and also created a stir by trading Mike Coles to Winnipeg. The outfielder was second on the team with a .300 average and 43 RBI at the time of the deal. The RailCats also sent relief pitcher Chris Allen, and in return acquired reliever Dexter Carter and a player to be named later.


After the trade, the team caught fire, winning a season-high six straight games, including two very memorable wins over Amarillo. On August 7, the RailCats were down 8-5 in the ninth inning but stormed back to win it 9-8 on a bunt single by David Cooper with the bases loaded and two out. It was their first comeback win of the season when trailing after eight innings. The next night, the RailCats played their longest home game ever at U. S. Steel Yard, beating the Sox 5-4 in 16 innings on Kolb’s game-winning hit. The 16 innings matched the longest game in club history and lasted four hours and 55 minutes, finishing after midnight.

The RailCats swept Amarillo for their first sweep of the season and then took the first two games from Lincoln on the road before their win streak ended in the final game of that series. They began a three-game series in St. Paul with a loss, but had two more late-inning rallies to win the series. Trailing 2-0 going to the ninth inning on August 14, they stunned the Saints with five runs in the ninth, including a go-ahead single by rookie Zac Mitchell. The next night, the RailCats took a 7-1 lead but St. Paul stormed back to tie the game and force extra innings. The ‘Cats scored six runs in the ninth inning, including a go-ahead single by Eric Suttle, to win 14-8 and take the series.

When they returned home, the RailCats swept Sioux Falls on Babineau’s 10th inning single to climb over .500 for the first time since May 25 at 44-43. Suddenly, winners of 13 of 16 games, the RailCats were back in the thick of the playoff race, just 4.5 games behind Winnipeg in the wild card with 13 games to go.

The Goldeyes came to town for a crucial three-game series on August 21, as the RailCats had an opportunity to push the wild card leader for a playoff spot. The Goldeyes signed a secret weapon that day, Barbaro Canizares from the Mexican League. He lit up the RailCats, going 4-for-5 with five RBI as the Fish won the series opener 7-2. They won by the same score the next night to take the series. Morgan Coombs threw eight scoreless innings in the finale to lead the ‘Cats to a 1-0 win, but they were 5.5 games back in the wild card with only 10 games to play.

The RailCats then traveled to Wichita, trailing the division leader by 6.5 games. Gary grabbed an early 2-0 lead but the Wingnuts rallied with home runs in the sixth and seventh innings to win 6-4. The Wingnuts took two of three in the series, but rookie Chase Tucker made headlines, going 6-for-6 with five RBI in the last two games of the series, reaching in eight straight plate appearances. On Monday, August 27, Winnipeg defeated St. Paul to eliminate the RailCats from playoff contention, as they missed the post-season for the second straight year.

Closing the season out at home, the club took three of four from St. Paul, effectively ending the Saints’ playoff hopes. They lost two of three to Laredo, as the Lemurs clinched the South Division title with a 6-5 win on September 2. The RailCats took the season finale 5-3, as Klein was 4-for-4 and the ‘Cats finished .500.

Despite falling short of the playoffs, the RailCats tied for the second-best record in the month of August, going 19-9. After falling to 16-28, they were 34-22 from July 4 through the end of the season. That was the second-best record in the league behind Fargo-Moorhead after Independence Day.


The RailCats had several notable achievements in the 2012 season. Manager Greg Tagert kept his streak intact of 17 consecutive seasons without a losing record. He also won his 800th career game and 400th as manager of the RailCats.

Adam Klein set a RailCats team record with 82 walks, eclipsing his total of 71 in 2011. That total also led the American Association. Klein was seventh in the league with a .410 on-base percentage, and his .404 career OBP with the RailCats is first all-time. He and David Cooper each stole 30 bases, tied for seventh in the league and second in RailCats history for a single-season behind Billy Brown’s 32 in 2003. Klein was third in the league with nine sacrifice flies. He also set a single-season team record with 476 plate appearances.

Cooper was tied for fourth in the American Association with 11 sacrifice hits and ninth in the league with 53 walks.

Mike Massaro scored 76 runs, breaking Klein’s club record of 75 the previous year. Massaro was third in the league with 135 hits, the second-most all-time by a RailCat behind his own mark of 142 in 2011. He also led the league with 12 triples, and is the all-time club leader with 35 career triples. He also has 28 triples since the RailCats joined the American Association in 2011, tied for the most all-time in the league with Wichita’s Mike Conroy.

Massaro hit a team-high .325 and remains the team’s all-time leader with a .321 batting average in his RailCats’ career. Massaro also became the second RailCat to reach 500 career hits on August 31, joining Jay Pecci. His 504 hits as a RailCat trail Pecci’s 548 for first all-time. He also became the third RailCat to play 100 games in a season, joining Adam Klein and Mike Rohde. He set team records for most at-bats (415) and sacrifice flies (10) in a season.

Mike Rohde became the fourth RailCat to play 400 games, and his 452 games played are second all-time behind Jay Pecci’s 513. Rohde also has 473 hits as a RailCat, good for third all-time.

Stephen Hiscock, who had not started in his first two years as a pro in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, became the ace of the RailCats pitching staff and was fifth in the league with a 3.22 ERA. He led the RailCats with 12 quality starts. Will Krout was also converted from a reliever to a starter with outstanding results. Krout finished 11th in the league with a 3.58 ERA.

The RailCats set four American Association records as a team, drawing the most walks all-time (438), stealing the most bases (164) and having the most caught stealing (56) and the most runners left on base (800) in a season.