Lakeland MLN: Hot Weeked Cooled by Rain

The Lakeland Flying Tigers started the week with a three game winning streak but ended it with two losses. The weatherman showed some mercy by raining out the Flying Tigers final series against the red hot Brevard County Manatees.

After last weeks collapse, the Flying Tigers were at a standing eight count at best. They looked like they were going to call in the trainer but then they started swinging back. Last week they scored a mere 23 runs in six games. They were able to eclipse that mark this week in their first four games this week.

The ball club started looking alive and reenergized. "Well it helps when you're swinging the bat good, you can't really hustle when you're making outs" said Manager Andy Barkett on the teams gusto this week.

Of course it helps when grounders start finding holes instead of being scooped up by the opposition. "The fact that we're getting hits and the things that happen in the game is something we need to do more of which lead to the nice win" Barkett added after Ryan Ketchner won his first game as a Flying Tiger.

The tables were turned a little bit once Lakeland went down to Clearwater, where the Threshers took the final two games against the Flying Tigers. The week could have gone down in a tail spin but Mother Nature interfered when she rained out the three game series against first half champion Brevard County. They were only able to play an inning and a half on Saturday and an inning on Sunday before they canceled the series after a near three hour rain delay.

The happiest player to see the rain come was Charlie Furbush. The rain wiped away his worst pitching performance of the season when he allowed five earned runs in his latest outing. His naturally sinking fastball stayed up when he was throwing it harder (90-91mph) and two Manatee players pulled them for monstrous home runs. He was wild in and out of the zone but most likely it is just a blip that every pitcher goes through during the season, Furbush was just lucky that it gets washed away.

The welcomed addition to the rotation is Ryan Ketchner. He is starting to look like the pitcher that was competing in Triple-A ball. In his third start of the season he pitched six quality innings where he allowed just one earned run on seven hits while striking out seven and didn't allow a walk. He painted the corners well while also getting empty swings from batters, which has been a problem for him in his previous outings. With his control and newfound ability to get swings and misses he could stick with the team.

One of the rarest occurrences of the week was L.J. Gagnier got to finish the last six innings from a suspended game from last month. It just happened to be his spot in the rotation when they were headed back to Clearwater and he pitched just as well in the second time around as he did in the first. In his six innings of work he struck out seven and didn't allow an earned run. He earned a complete game victory that put his record at 9-8 to lead the pitching staff.

A long struggle finally came to an end. It took 19 at-bats and nine games but Luis Grullon finally earned his first hit in the Florida State League. In the middle game down in Clearwater he sent a ground ball that found the hole between short and third. He has had the tendency to press a little bit and looked overmatched. He has struck out nine times in his first 20 at-bats. Now that he is off the schneid maybe he will make more contact and the hits can start coming in bunches.

While Audy Ciriaco has manned shortstop for all but one game this season he has a co-pilot now. Hernan Perez has been brought into the mix to bring his stellar glove to the team. "He's going to be up here for a little bit, He's earned the right to be here" said Barkett. The sample size is very small so far, but in his first 14 at-bats he has actually been hitting well.

In all of the leagues Perez has played he has been able to field exceptionally well but he hasn't been able to swing the bat. He has five hits with two going for doubles and for good measure he's drawn a walk and struck out twice. One of his extra base hits was a pure hustle double where he took the extra base on a soft line drive to left field. At only 19-years old he is still very young and could be an interesting prospect to watch for the rest of the season and next.

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