Lakeland MLN: Battling Their Way to the Top

Winners of five of seven, including two-of-three from division-leading Dunedin, the Flying Tigers put together another solid week of baseball. Thanks to a total team effort, Lakeland (12-10) is currently five and a half games out of first place in the Florida State League's North Division.

Total Team Effort

It's easy to assume that the offense has single handily carried the Flying Tigers this season. After all, Lakeland leads the FSL in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS. Despite playing in two fewer games, Lakeland's 108 runs scored are also third best on the circuit.

Lakeland's bats remained hot this past week, producing 47 runs. Receiving just one quality start, the bullpen may have been the real hero this week though. Responsible for 26 1/3 innings, the 'pen buckled down and allowed just nine earned runs. Leading the way, Victor Larez, Matt Little and Bruce Rondon tossed 11 2/3 combined innings of shutout ball. Their efforts helped Lakeland mount three come from behind victories.

Like previous weeks Lakeland continued to be pests on the base paths. Led by Daniel Fields three steal night last Tuesday, the Flying Tigers swiped eight bases this past week. Lakeland's 30 stolen bases ranks second best and their 83% success rate is tops in the FSL. After just one month, the Flying Tigers are already more than half way to last season's total of 57 stolen bases.

Three's Company

For the better part of the past week, Avisail Garcia (.400 AVG) and Nick Castellanos (.398 AVG) have traded places for the league lead in batting average.

This past week, Garcia went 14-for-29 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. The 20-year-old is enjoying an eleven game hit streak and has recorded a hit in all but two of Lakeland's 22 games this season.

Keeping pace with Garcia, Castellanos went 13-for-31 with two doubles and a triple this past week. The 20-year-old third-baseman also leads the league in doubles with eight.

Flying Tigers left-fielder Tyler Collins has become a bit of a permanent fixture on the leader boards as well. Collins' 10-for-27 performance this past week included two three-hit games, four doubles, a triple and six RBI--three of which came in clutch situations, with two outs. The 21-year-old's .337 average is currently fourth best in the Florida State League.

Starting to Settle In

After a bit of a slow start, catcher James McCann has started to pick things up at the plate. McCann, The Tiger's second round pick in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, went 9-for-18 this past week, raising his batting average to .283 on the season.

Second-baseman Hernan Perez has been swinging a hot bat too. The 21-year-old has hit .364 over his last ten games since moving down in the order. Perez also stole two bases and drew his first four walks of the season over that span.

Turner's Return to Daytona

Five days after the Daytona Cubs failed to get a single hit off Jacob Turner, the Tigers top prospect returned to Jackie Robinson Stadium for his second start of the season.

Taking advantage of an extra out--thanks to an error by shortstop Dixon Machado--the Cubs were able to strike early, plating four unearned runs in the first inning.

Turner would settle down though, not allowing a run the remainder of his night. The 6-foot-5 right hander, scattered eight hits and recorded three strikeouts and one walk over six innings of work. Turner also recorded a pick off, his second in as many games.

Although no announcement has officially been made, should he stay in Lakeland, Turner's next start would be May 3rd in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, if he's not promoted to Triple-A Toledo, his original expected destination.

Looking Forward

This week, the Flying Tigers hit the road for one of their longest road trips of the season. Tonight, Lakeland looks to pick up some ground, as they take on the division leading Dunedin Blue Jays in a three game set. Lakeland then travels to Fort Myers on Friday, for a four game series against the last place Miracle.

James R. Chipman is the Lakeland Flying Tigers correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.

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