DIXIE LEAGUE – With its double header schedule, 9 position rosters, and single point scoring scale (AF Century), The Dixie League is one of the Association’s most unique leagues.  Marketed as “fantasy football that feels like the Golden Age of minor league baseball,”  it traces its lineage back to 2009, making it the oldest league in the Association, but it has gone through multiple incarnations and format changes, and suspended operations twice, converting to its current baseball-themed format in 2015.  Through all of its history and formats, though, on thing has remained the same:  No Western based franchise has ever won the championship.  Until now.

Six replacement franchises joined the league for the 2017 season, and one of those was the Austin Bulls, the farm club for the IFFL’s Chicago Red Stars, managed by Dan “the Polish Rifle” Mayhoff.  Aligned into the Western League, the Bulls started the season quietly, with generally midling play.  While other rookie franchises like Hinesville, Kokomo, and Lakeland were making a big splash in the Dixie with big games and bigger stats, Austin filtered down to the bottom of the standings board in almost all categories.  After the 7th week stretch the Bulls had compiled an uninspiring 6-5-3 record in double header play.  But begining in Week 8, around the time the neighboring Houston Astros, right down the road from the Bulls, were putting together their spectacular World Series win, Austin began to get hot.  Really hot.  As if there was something in the Texas air that both Houston and Austin both managed to tap into, the Bulls began to win, putting together a 6-1-1 run to finish the regular season.

Austin went from second to last in the Western League, to second overall, jumping ahead of 2017 Homerun Derby winner Kokomo Kings and in-state rival San Angelo Wolverines.   In dramatic fashion, Austin clinched their spot in the Western League Championship Series with a monster, 19 run performance in the final weekend of the regular season.  In the WLCS, they were set to face the veteran Andalusia Arrows, back for their second consecutive season in the Series.  In Game 1Andalusia started a little slow but as the day progressed, so did the scoring, and they were able to muster a week high 11 points against a 3 point showing from the Bulls.  In Game 2, the Arrows were looking for the sweep, but it was a bad week for QB’s as Andalusia’s Tom Brady suffered through his 1st week all season without scoring a single point, and Austin’s Drew Brees mustered only 2 points for the week.   But the Bulls were helped out by a point from the RB position and 3 points from the kicker position, which lead the Bulls to a 7-4 win to force a Game 3.   Unfortunately for the Arrows, their signal caller failed to score again, and they could put together just 7 points from the rest of their roster, while the Bulls had a huge day, with all positions but two scoring at least 1 run, their running back posting 4 in the 15-7 victory.

After eliminating Andalusia and hoisting the Western League trophy, Austin headed into the Dixie League Championship Series with the knowledge that no Western ball club had ever won the League Championship.  They would face the Eastern League Champion Lakeland Raiders who had sewn up the ELCS in just two games and were the #2 scoring team of the 2017 season (1 run behind Andalusia).  Needless to say, the Bulls were severe underdogs.  In Game 1, though, Austin was still on their hotstreak, scoring just a single run less than they had the previous week and beating the Raiders 14-5.  This time, all but one of their starting positions crossed home plate for at least one run, and suddenly, the Bulls were on the brink of making history.  In Game 2, however, Lakeland put the scoring skills that had gotten them there on display and posted a 10-4 victory that included 4 Raider homeruns.

And so it all came down to the final game in week 17, with the Championship series all tied up at 1 a piece.  In the finale, both teams seemed to fall flat, and the game turned into a real grinder.  Lakeland suffered a loss of two runs thanks to a pair of interceptions thrown, and otherwise, could only put up 3 runs in a losing effort.  Austin wasn’t explosive by any accounts, but managed to put together just enough offense to reel in 7 runs, and an ugly win is still a win, nonetheless.  And this particular 7-3 victory over the Lakeland Raiders gave them the Champiosnhip Series, 2 games to 1, to break the Western League curse and win the Dixie Cup as the first ever Western team to do so.

As the reigning Dixie League Champions, the Austin Bulls will be looking to upgrade their team bus for the 2018 season.