BRADENTON -- Considering the franchise wrapped just its fifth season, the Bradenton Marauders' history book isn't a very thick one.
But until a better one comes along, the 2014 edition will be the standard future Marauders teams will be measured against.
The facts are irrefutable. Bradenton, the high Single-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, won a team-best 78 games while reaching the Florida State League playoffs for the first time since 2011 and third time overall. The Marauders lost in the South Division Championship Series to the Fort Myers Miracle, the eventual league champions.
Pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Josh Bell were not only named the pitcher and player of the year by the FSL, but were named the top minor-league pitcher and player in the Pirates'
organization as well.
And this season also brought the FSL All-Star Game to McKechnie Field for the first time. Played June 14, the game drew 5,882 fans, the third-largest crowd in the game's history.
"It was a terrific year," said Trevor Gooby, the Pirates' senior director of Florida operations.
As baseball's timeless formula suggests, the Marauders' success hinged mostly on pitching, led by Glasnow, a 6-foot-7 California native who didn't turn 21 until August. He was named the Pirates' organizational pitcher of the year for the second straight time by going 12-5 with a league-best 1.74 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings. Glasnow allowed three home runs all year and limited hitters to a .174 clip.
Drafted by the Pirates during the fifth round in 2011, Glasnow has rung up 365 strikeouts while allowing 151 hits in 274 professional innings.
Not bad for a guy who began the year 0-3 after missing the first month of the season and most of spring training with a back injury.
"I'm definitely glad I could bounce back from the injury in spring training. Nothing too major, kind of a bump in the road," Glasnow said earlier this year. "When I did start pitching, I wasn't doing that great. I think kind of getting a feel of things and getting back into that routine has definitely helped."
Chad Kuhl's 13 wins set a franchise mark for most in a single season and tied Brevard County's Tyler Wagner for most in the league this season. Kuhl also paced the league in innings (153 1/3) and helped the Marauders clinch the South Division's second half by beating the Charlotte Stone Crabs on Aug. 31 during the opening game of a doubleheader.
The Marauders led the league in shutouts (18) and were second in ERA (3.27). Their bullpen was fourth in saves (39) and received a team-high 11 from Yhonathan Barrios. Jhondaniel Medina recorded a 0.72 ERA in 35 appearances while Josh Smith, who also appeared in 35 games, had six holds and eight saves to go with a 1.93 ERA.
Leading the way offensively was Bell, who led the league in slugging (.502) while hitting .335 with nine home runs and 53 RBIs before he was promoted to Double-A Altoona in June.
Despite the absence of their biggest bat, the Marauders won 43 games during the second half, powered mostly by Jose Osuna, the team leader in home runs (10) and RBIs (57). Osuna played a big role in Bradenton's playoff push, hitting .515 over its final 10 regular-season games and .343 with 22 RBIs in August. Adding some punch was Jordan Steranka, who split designated hitter/first base duties with Osuna. A Pittsburgh native, Steranka had 50 RBIs on the year.
The Marauders were one of six in the 12-team FSL to draw more than 100,000 fans, placing sixth with 104,584. Though attendance fell short of last year's record (109,854), Gooby said he was pleased.
"We were thrilled to have over 100,000 people see Marauder baseball this summer," he said. "We had some bad luck with rain and some really extreme heat, but overall it was a great year."
So what's next? Gooby said the Marauders would love to host another All-Star Game, though that may have to wait a bit considering the next three games have already been taken, according to league president Chuck Murphy. And the team will see one new opponent next year after the Chicago Cubs decided to move their high Single-A Class A affiliate to Myrtle Beach, S.C., after having a team in Daytona since 1993.
"The way (minor league baseball) works is that Daytona is guaranteed to have a team there," Gooby said. "I am not sure who that is going to be, but we look forward to welcoming a new team into the league."
There is plenty to do now, Gooby said, with construction projects underway at Pirate City and McKechnie Field, and the Pirates looking to make the playoffs for the second straight year.
That being said, he won't forget 2014 anytime soon.
"It is amazing that we have only be around for five years," Gooby said. "Our community has really accepted this team as their own and it is a great to feel so much support."