By A.J. Kaufman
The Johnson City Doughboys’ record-setting season comes to a conclusion Wednesday night in the Appalachian League championship game.
The club held the best mark in the entire league since mid-June and clinched the West Division Championship way back on July 21. Johnson City enjoyed multiple long winning streaks this summer, including 11 games from July 7-20, and nine wins in a row from June 13-25. They held a sparkling 34-10 record as of Monday.
Remarkably, the Doughboys only lost three home games out of 24 played in total at TVA Credit Union Ballpark, where the finale is set to be played tonight at 7 o’clock.
During their third summer in the Appalachian League’s latest iteration, fans quickly noticed. Averaging large crowds of over 3,600 fans per home game at TVA Credit Union ball park, the Doughboys easily led the league in attendance, nearly doubling the next team and roughly 1,500 more fans per opening than 2022.
“There’s really been a multitude of reasons in which the team has been so successful,” Preston Baker, the team’s director of media and broadcasting, told the News and Neighbor. “The entire coaching staff stayed the same, which in this level is more of an exception than the rule. The guys have all played as one all season; they’ve all enjoyed their time together, and everyone is in it for the same goal, to win a championship. Even with the team having a league leading seven all-stars, the production has come from everyone, with new players producing every day.”
Johnson City has been led this summer by local talent like Daniel Boone High product Colby Backus, who transferred to the University of Tennessee last season after tearing up the Junior College ranks at Walters State in Morristown. Backus finished with the fourth most home runs this season in the Appy League, while ranking third in RBI and sixth in hits. The outfielder was one of those seven Doughboys selected to the West All-Star roster for the July 25 game in Kingsport.
Logan Sutter arguably had an even more impressive season than Backus, finishing atop the league in RBI, hits, tied for second in home runs and second, with a robust .365 batting average in 41 games played. The California native is also a junior college transfer — conference player of the year this past season — and will continue his college career at Purdue University this fall.
Jacob Poe, a relief pitcher from Milligan University, enjoys playing near his campus and is proud of the Doughboys’ success.
“We are just a very relaxed group, and we can turn it on once we get on the field,” the fifth year senior-to-be explained. “Everybody is rooting for each other.”
Johnson City was home to a minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals from the original Appalachian League, until Major League Baseball initiated a contraction of Minor League Baseball before the 2021 season; the Appy League was quickly rebirthed as a summer collegiate league.
Those Johnson City Cardinals won 10 league championships, most recently in 2019. The Doughboys plan to add to that ledger on Wednesday night against the Burlington Sock Puppets, Eastern Division champs, who they just hosted Sunday and Monday.
“Obviously, the goal and the plan on Wednesday is to perform up to expectations,” Baker, in his second year working for the Doughboys, added. “The team is averaging almost 4,000 fans a game. We want to send off the season in the way it deserves, and the way the fans deserve, and being able to do that in the form of a championship, would be exactly how we want to cap it off.”