River Bandits pitcher Dean Kiekhefer celebrates as he is hoisted onto the shoulders of catcher Geoff Klein as the rest of the team joins them at the mound Saturday after they defeated the Lansing Lugnuts to win the Midwest League Championship at Modern Woodmen Park. Kiekhefer got the save. (John Schultz / Quad-City Times)

John Schultz

When the Midwest League named its postseason all-stars last month, there wasn't a single Quad-Cities River Bandits player on the elite 14-player team.

At the time, manager Johnny Rodriguez shrugged it off.

He felt the all-star team was full of worthy choices, but added, "We'll let them enjoy their ink now. We'll celebrate what we want later."

That celebration started a little after 9:30 on Saturday night when a memory-filled 2011 season ended with the presentation of the Midwest League championship trophy and pennant to the Quad-Cities organization.

"They could put this whole group on an all-star team," said pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, who earned a pair of wins on the mound as Quad-Cities swept its way through each of the three rounds of the playoffs.

"We've all been blessed to be a part of a great team that never lost sight of the fact that this is a team game. We picked each other up and everybody carried us at one time or another. I think that is why we were successful."

Rodriguez made certain that every player on his roster had a role, never sitting a healthy position player for more than two straight games.

"The idea was to keep everybody on top of their games, keep everybody involved," Rodriguez said. "We have plenty of at-bats to go around. Everybody in this clubhouse, all 25 of them, has an investment in the outcome of every game we play."

St. Louis provided Rodriguez with the talent he needed to build a contender.

Early in the season, pitching and defense was the River Bandits' game. A collection of hard-throwing starters that initially included Jordan Swagerty and Carlos Martinez helped the club build a 40-29 record during a first half which included the franchise's first-ever appearance at Busch Stadium.

Catcher Cody Stanley, infielder Starlin Rodriguez and pitchers Anthony Ferrara, Justin Wright and Rosenthal represented Quad-Cities at the league all-star game held at Modern Woodmen Park.

And in the second half, the River Bandits broke out the bats.

Outfielder Oscar Taveras, who hit .386 for the season, became the first Quad-Cities player since Orlando Palmeiro in 1992 to win the Midwest League batting title, while Jonathan Rodriguez broke a 41-year-old club record by averaging one home run every 19.7 at-bats.

The addition of Cardinals' 2011 first-round draft pick Kolten Wong provided the River Bandits with a strong leadoff hitter.

Their collective effort, combined with the consistency of a starting pitching staff led by Boone Whiting's 2.41 ERA and the development of Aidan Lucas and Dean Kiekhefer on the back end of the bullpen, allowed Quad-Cities to win the second-half title in the Western Division with a 41-27 record.

The River Bandits saved their best for last, winning 18 of their last 21 games including all seven playoff games. In two of the losses, it took 12 innings to decide the outcome.

"We come to play every day, and we all had a role," said Jonathan Rodriguez, whose two-run double in the seventh inning secured Saturday's pennant-clinching win over Lansing. "There are a lot of guys on this club who won a title a year ago at Johnson City, guys who knew what winning a championship is all about.

"We believed in each other, trusted each other and trusted what Johnny and (hitting coach Joe) Kruzel and (pitching coach Tim) Leveque were teaching us. They pushed us to compete at a high level every day. By doing that, they gave us chance to become champions."

2011 River Bandits superlatives

Batting average

Oscar Taveras, .386


Jonathan Rodriguez, 67


Oscar Taveras, 119


Jonathan Rodriguez, 27

Oscar Taveras, 27


Chris Edmondson, 6

Home runs

Jonathan Rodriguez, 20


Jonathan Rodriguez, 70

Stolen bases

Ronny Gil, 18


Ronny Gil, 5


Anthony Ferrara, 13


Dean Kiekhefer, 1.26

Complete games

Trevor Rosenthal, 1


Aidan Lucas, 11


Trevor Rosenthal, 133


Boone Whiting, 1.03