Cyclones Fight Their Way Into First Place

It's been a long winding road for the Brooklyn Cyclones, dealing with adversity and internal turmoil throughout the year. They dropped their first seven games, continued changes made to the lineup and the roster, and lost players to injury and suspension. But after all they've been through, they now stand tied with the Staten Island Yankees for first place in the McNamara division.

With a record of 24-17, winners of their last nine in a row, what has been the secret to their turn around? The formula has been simple. Timely hitting and great pitching, both from the bullpen and the starting rotation.

The hitting has gotten going, with left fielder Dustin Martin being in the center of it all. He has been on fire in past few weeks, raising his batting average to .309 with an on-base percentage of .418, with two homers and a team leading 20 RBIs.

"If we keep playing the way we're playing, we're going to be tough to beat," said Martin, the 26th round selection of the Mets this year.

Along with Martin's bat getting hot, designated hitter Mark Wright has shown signs of life at the plate, raising his average to .263 and has forced the Cyclone coaches to pencil his name into the lineup until he cools down.

"I think they're getting confidence," said Cyclone Manager George Greer. "It's a deadly combination, confidence in yourself and confidence in your baseball, you go one through nine, you can't carry a team by yourself."

The pitching staff, which has carried the team until recently, has been dominating recently, led by starters Jake Ruckle, Tobi Stoner, Nelson Portillo and Eric Brown.

Stoner has been rolling, and has yet to allow a run in his last two starts. Stoner lowered his ERA to 2.89 on the year and has shown fantastic control with only eight walks on the year. Stoner leads the staff with four wins on the year and has said that he's added velocity to his two-seam fastball along with refining his off-speed pitches.

Eric Brown, who has been inserted into the rotation after Jeremy Simmons' promotion to Hagerstown, has also been sparkling in the rotation, using his two-seam fastball to continually get ground balls from opposing hitters.

All of the Cyclone starters, except for Portillo have WHIP ratios under 1.00, a remarkable feat.

The Cyclones bullpen has been virtually flawless and has done a great job protecting leads for the starters. Cyclone closer Joe Smith, who was recently promoted to Class AA Binghamton, was outclassing the New York-Penn League with a 0.45 ERA and striking out 28 batters in 20 innings.

Lefty Rip Warren has done good work out of pen as the University of Georgia product gives Greer two solid lefties he can call on out of the pen, along with Grady Hinchman. Warren has a 1-1 record on the year with a 1.20 ERA and has 16 strikeouts in 15.2 innings pitched.

Jose De La Torre has replaced Smith as the new closer and so far, the results have been good. He has yet to blow a save in three opportunities.

It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Cyclones, who look to make their playoff push in the final six weeks of the season. There's still work to be done, but the Cyclones are proud of their resurgence.

"It's been a struggle," said Cyclone second basemen Jon Schemmel. "But if you block out that 0-7 record, we have the best record in the league. We feel pretty good about where we're at right now."

Notes: The Cyclones had their biggest crowd of the year at Keyspan Park before their six game road trip to Aberdeen and Oneonta. 9,308 fans saw the Cyclones come from within a strike of losing the game to win in dramatic fashion in extra innings, 5-4.

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