Although the end of the preliminary round is still weeks away, the Bull Oceanic Winter League (BOWL) already has two emerging power teams that are seemingly locks for the playoff round when it starts February 20.
The Algiers Berbers, which is made up of minor league players contributed by the Nevada Speeders and the Battle Creek Attack, have been unquestioningly dominant since the season began on January 8.
The Berbers have dispatched team after team, often by large margins, such as their 12-0 pummeling of Cairo back on the 17th, and their 9-0 shock to Tunis.
So far, at 15-3, only Cape Town and Lagos have given them serious opposition, with both teams delivering losses by 3 or more runs, though Algiers drew first blood against Lagos days earlier by delivering a stinging 14-4 loss to them.
Cairo is the only other team to have beat Algiers so far, but did so in a 3-2 squeeze involving late 9th inning heroics in a game in which they had been outmatched from the start.
Of particular note for the Berbers, Nevada Speeder A-ball right-hander Bob Irvine has been on his game, delivering a string of great outings, extending a win streak to 3 consecutive decisions, but prefacing those with a fourth no-decision win in which he had a quality 8.0 innings, allowing just 2 runs.
Irvine’s ERA now sits at 1.93 to lead the team, while a string of solid hitters provide the offense, including Battle Creek AA-level outfielder Michael Brooks (.413, 16 runs, 9 2B, 1 HR, 15 RBI).
The other team making waves in the BOWL is the Melbourne Gold Rush, the Detroit/Arizona development team. The Gold Rush are 12-6, and 1st in their division, with a succession of great pitchers – mostly from their Detroit side but with Arizona’s David Almonte as a noticeable contribution as well.
Almonte, who normally plays for the AAA-level Baie Verte Vikings, and qualified for the BOWL as he had spent most of last season on the club’s AA-level Saginaw roster, has gone 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 4 starts, but has shown consistent signs of dominating batters with a 94 mph fastball, striking out 20 over 31.2 innings and walking just 5.
Where Algiers has found success mainly through their bats, Melbourne has done it with speedy offense and great pitching.