MLN: 'Wolves Battle Consistency

The minor league baseball season is almost a month old and things may be turning around for the Erie SeaWolves. The 'Wolves have struggled with consistency since sweeping Binghamton to open the 2008 campaign but a 5-2 week has the team turning the corner. They are currently 13-10 and one game behind Harrisburg for first place in the Southern Division.

The 13-10 record is one game better than the 2007 team that won the Southern Division before falling three games to one against Akron in the Eastern League playoffs.

Erie completed a six game road trip by taking two out of three against the Harrisburg Senators and they won three out four in a home series against Altoona. The 'Wolves find themselves on a three game winning streak and they outscored Altoona 24-11 in the three games. "We've been playing well, we really have. Hitting, pitching and that's good to see" said SeaWolves manager Tom Brookens. The win streak marks the first time the 'Wolves have won three in a row since they swept four games against Bowie to start the season.

The 'Wolves offense has a lethal combination of power and speed that has them leading the Eastern League in home runs (25), runs scored (151) and stolen bases (42). They have hit home runs in 17 of their first 23 games and have 10 different players with at least one home run including Kody Kirkland who hit his first of the season on Friday night. "My first two at-bats were pretty horrible, I was just trying to have a good at-bat and he kind of left it out there," Kirkland said, continuing "It felt good to get that first one out of the way".

There were plenty of questions about the 'Wolves being able to hit for power but through the first four weeks of the season that question has been answered. Wilkin Ramirez, Ryan Roberson and Deik Scram all have four home runs and Jeff Frazier and Dusty Ryan have hit three long balls. Wilkin Ramirez and Ryan Roberson are known for having some power but Deik Scram has surprised everyone with his power this season. Scram is in his second full season at the professional level and hit only five home runs between Lakeland and West Michigan in 2007. He is currently tied with Freddy Guzman with a team high 18 RBI but he's batting only .247 which is well below his average last season.

Freddy Guzman continues to impress this season posting .298 batting average to go along with his two home runs and 18 RBI. He continues to lead the league with 13 stolen bases and he is tied with Matt Carson of Trenton with four triples. Guzman has been a catalyst of the team both offensively and defensively, making some spectacular catches in center field. Max Leon is also quietly having a good season posting a .349 batting average with seven RBI. Leon is currently riding a five game hitting streak, his longest of the season.

There has been a battle for the catcher position all season between Dusty Ryan and Max St. Pierre with both putting up big numbers. They are playing so well that manager Tom Brookens has used both in the lineup at times, using one as the designated hitter. "It's not a scenario that I really like but the way they are both swinging the bat, they both deserve to be in the lineup" said Brookens. It certainly worked in a 12-2 victory at Harrisburg on Tuesday April 22, Dusty Ryan was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI and Max St. Pierre was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI. St. Pierre had a 4-for-4 game in a 9-3 win on Saturday and he is leading the team with a .371 batting average in 51 at-bats. Dusty Ryan is also putting up huge numbers hitting .327 and adding three home runs and 14 RBI.

The pitching has been a question mark for the 'Wolves through the first couple of weeks but it has been much improved. Both Josh Rainwater and Ben Fritz had two good starts this week. Fritz had his best two starts of the season pitching 6 1/3 innings allowing one earned run in a 12-2 win against Harrisburg on April 22 and he pitched 6 2/3 solid innings on Sunday in a 5-4 win against Altoona. The team is 5-0 in games that Fritz has started although he has only victory. He has allowed only one earned run in three of his five starts and has pitched at least six innings three times. Rainwater started the season in the bullpen but has been good in the starting rotation since Jon Connolly was called up to Toledo posting a 1-1 record and a 3.00 ERA in his four starts.

The bullpen received some help this week with Brett Jensen being activated from the DL and Freddy Dolsi being called up from Lakeland. This presents the team with two proven closers to go along with a solid bullpen. Freddy Dolsi has pitched two innings since being called up and he has not allowed as hit. Brett Jensen lowered his ERA to 1.29 and is 1-0 with a save and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Danny Zell and Casey Fien have proved to be very reliable coming out of the bullpen. Zell is 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA while Fien has allowed only one earned run in 12 2/3 innings, giving him a 0.71 ERA. Zell and Fien lead the team with nine appearances through 23 games.

The 'Wolves will enjoy a day off on Monday before starting a six game road trip that will start on Tuesday in Akron and end with a three game series in Altoona. The starting rotation for the series in Akron sets up with Luke French (1-2, 5.79 ERA) on Tuesday, Andrew Kown (2-2, 6.95 ERA) on Wednesday and Danny Christensen (0-2, 3.91 ERA) on Thursday.

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