ThunderBolts Notebook: Positive vibes down the stretch
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media August 10, 2014 5:08PM
Updated: September 12, 2014 6:20AM
Throughout all their struggles this season, the Windy City ThunderBolts remained optimistic they could turn it around in the second half and at least put themselves in position to make a run at a playoff spot.
After all, last season they had gone 27-13 after the All-Star break to finish 50-46 and came within three games of a postseason berth.
“Last year, we started off horrible just like this year and we turned things around and got really close to making the playoffs,” T-Bolts pitcher Daniel Cropper said. “We’ve got to keep thinking about that and keep playing hard.”
However, the team’s latest losing streak almost certainly has dashed any hopes of a second-half run similar to the one in 2013.
Windy City lost its sixth straight game Saturday night to fall to 25-47 and 171/2 games out of the playoffs with just 24 games to go. It will be the fourth straight season the T-Bolts have missed the playoffs.
Now, the team is in a position of needing wins to avoid infamy. Windy City entered Sunday just a half-game ahead of the Frontier Greys — the Frontier League’s travel team — for the league’s worst record.
The T-Bolts need nine more wins to avoid the worst season in franchise history and must go 13-11 to avoid the worst season since becoming the T-Bolts.
The 2001 Cook County Cheetahs have the worst winning percentage in franchise history, going 28-53. Since the ownership change and name change in 2004, the team’s worst season was the T-Bolts’ first, when they finished 37-57.
“It’s always tough when the team is struggling,” second baseman Ryan Soares said. “We have guys with a lot of pride here, though, and we’re going to keep playing hard and try to win as many games as we can down the stretch.”
After beginning his professional career with an 0-for-8 showing, rookie catcher Spencer Castro has six hits in 14 at-bats and entered Sunday hitting .273.
Another newcomer, Ryan Tufts, has proved a nice addition. Since joining the team on July 26, he’s driven in seven runs in 13 games and hit .260.
Cropper continued his strong second half, tossing seven shutout innings Friday against Southern Illinois, but took a no-decision as the T-Bolts fell 3-0 in 10 innings.
Windy City signed catcher Michael Allen and pitcher Hein Robb last week. It’s the fourth Frontier League team in two seasons for Allen, who spent time with the Greys, Washington and Normal. He had one hit in his first 10 at-bats with the T-Bolts.
Robb, a native of South Africa who spent four years in the Minnesota Twins organization, made his first T-Bolts start Thursday and allowed three earned runs in 32/3 innings.