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Slammers Notebook: DeBruin a smooth operator on defense

The Joliet Slammers Grant DeBrumakes throw first for out. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

The Joliet Slammers Grant DeBruin makes the throw to first for the out. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 11, 2014 6:20AM



While Grant DeBruin has delivered key hits to go with a .300 batting average, the Joliet third baseman also has made an impact with his glove.

Slammers manager Jeff Isom appreciates DeBruin’s ability to catch on at the hot corner.

“From the beginning of spring training to now, he’s improved a ton defensively,’’ Isom said. “It’s a credit to him and how much work he’s put into it. He’s turned into a pretty darned good third baseman.’’

The 23-year-old Florida native, who’s in his second season with the Slammers, has had some help with his mechanics.

“Coming for spring training, Isom has been working with me pretty much every day, getting early work,’’ DeBruin said. “Working on footwork, shortening up my arm slot, just trying to get better.’’

Among several smooth plays this season, none was more crucial than the one DeBruin made Sunday in the 13th inning against River City.

With the bases loaded and the game tied 1-1, DeBruin fielded a smash at third and threw a strike to the plate for a forceout.

“Grant has been playing very well there,’’ Isom said. “Grant’s been swinging the bat well.’’

DeBruin lined a walk-off RBI single in Sunday’s 2-1, 14-inning victory that gave the Slammers a series sweep over River City.

A day earlier, his RBI base hit in the sixth inning turned out to be the game-winner against the Rascals.

Pitching in

With a league-worst .224 team batting average, pitching is the main reason the Slammers (9-12) aren’t mired in last place in the Frontier League West Division.

In the past week, Joliet’s team ERA dropped from 4.34 — two from the bottom in the 14-team league — to 3.31, which ranks fifth.

The top four team ERAs belong to winning clubs: Evansville (3.16, 12-8), Southern Illinois (3.17, 12-9), Gateway (3.18, 14-8) and Lake Erie (3.25, 12-9).

“Pitching has been outstanding this last week,’’ Isom said. “If you can pitch and play defense, you give yourself a chance.’’

“Our pitching is able to keep us in a position for our offense to come back and win the game,’’ designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer said.

Joliet pitchers allowed just three runs in three games against River City, the best hitting team in the league (.274).

Kody McFarland and Andrew Busby went seven innings Friday and Saturday, respectively, to earn the first two victories by Slammers starters this season.

On the calendar

Joliet begins a home series Tuesday night against Traverse City (10-11), which also has won three in a row. Right-hander Matt Dillon (0-2, 5.23) is scheduled to start for Joliet.

The Slammers will be on the road for a weekend series against the Washington Wild Things, whose 15-6 record is best in the league.



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