Baseball: ThunderBolts looking for some pop in clutch
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 21, 2012 7:32PM
Windy City ThunderBolts manager Morgan Burkhart. | File photo
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:47AM
After being 7-4 through 11 games, the Windy City ThunderBolts were just 6-9 in their previous 15 entering Thursday night’s contest.
The T-Bolts’ struggles begin at the plate — the team is hitting .259 and ranks eighth in the Frontier League in runs with 139 — but a pitching staff that was the league’s best over the first three weeks of the season has had its own problems of late.
Offensively, clutch hits with runners in scoring position have been lacking most of the year, including in Wednesday night’s 9-3 loss to Traverse City when the T-Bolts left 12 men on base.
“We’re getting the hits,” T-Bolts catcher Brandon Pearl said. “We just need to get them at the right times. We know that if we’re swinging well enough to pile up hits, eventually we’ll start getting hits in key situations.”
“We definitely need to be better in situational hitting,” manager Morgan Burkhart said. “And we’ve got to get better at continuing to put it on teams. Sometimes we get a few early and aren’t able to put them away.”
Windy City’s pitching staff has seen its ERA rise from a league-best 2.62 on June 8 to 3.96 — eighth in the league — entering Thursday.
Despite the recent struggles, the T-Bolts have gotten strong performances all year from ace Stephen Sauer (3-1, 2.59 ERA) and a bullpen led by Lansing native Shane Zegarac (1.80 ERA, 2 saves), Andy Mee (3-0, 1.69 ERA) and Tyson Corley (8 saves).
Meyerchick moves on
It was a very short stay in Crestwood for Lansing native and T.F. South product Eric Meyerchick.
After making just one appearance with the T-Bolts, tossing one scoreless inning, the product of St. Joseph’s College (Ind.) was signed Saturday by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“This has been overwhelming,” Meyerchick said. “I am excited for this new opportunity and couldn’t be more thankful for all the support I have received the past two weeks and my baseball career.”
Meyerchick was the 21st Windy City player signed by a major league organization in the past four seasons, most in the Frontier League in that span.
Whole lotta glove
One aspect of the T-Bolts’ play that consistently has been strong, aside from Wednesday’s four-error performance against Traverse City, has been defense.
Windy City figured to have one of the league’s best double-play combos with second baseman Mike Torres and shortstop Chris Wade returning.
While those two have continued to thrive, the T-Bolts became even better up the middle with the acquisition May 31 of center fielder Jareck West.
West has shown a great ability to run down balls in center.
“I take pride in my defense,” he said. “I used to watch Andruw Jones, and I try to take after him.”
When West made two basket catches on the warning track in a June 7 win over Joliet, he had fans mentioning a player even more famous for his defense than Jones: Willie Mays.
“That’s a good guy to be compared to, too,” West said, with a laugh.