Erie MLN: 'Wolves Winless Through Week One

The beginning of a new baseball season is a wonderful thing, unless you have the start the Erie SeaWolves have had. The ‘Wolves have started the season off 0-7, and have already fallen six games behind Altoona and Bowie.

Erie opened their Eastern League season on the road against the Trenton Thunder. In the opener the SeaWolves were shutout and limited to just two hits in the game. In fact the ‘Wolves were shutout for the first 12 innings of the new season.

The ‘Wolves got their first run of the season when first baseman/designated hitter Cesar Nicolas drove in shortstop, and TigsTown's No.11 prospect Cale Iorg with an RBI single. That would be the only run the ‘Wolves would manage in the game and they would score only two more runs the rest of the series as the Thunder outscored Erie 16-3.

Erie left Trenton looking to regroup against the Binghamton Mets. Instead they found more struggles. Erie starter Andrew Oliver (TigsTown's No.9 prospect) struggled in the opener as the ‘Wolves fell behind 5-0.

Deik Scram (TigsTown's No. 30 prospect) hit a three-run home run in game one of the series to give Erie their first game with more than one run scored.

The ‘Wolves showed some flashes off breaking out of their offensive slump against the Mets, despite being shutout in the second game of the series. Erie scored seven total runs in the series and pushed the final game of the series into extra innings. Erie eventually lost in 13 innings when the Mets' Nick Evans drove in Jose Coronado with the winning run.

Offensive Struggles

Most of the ‘Wolves early season struggles can be attributed to the offense or should we say lack there of.

Erie is last in the Eastern league with a team batting average of .117 (26-for-222). Catcher Jeff Kunkel (.300) and third baseman Santo De Leon (.211) are the only Erie players hitting above the Mendoza line.

The ‘Wolves can't hit early on and they can't get on base either. Erie's team on-base-percentage is .196. Jeff Kunkel leads the team with a .273 on-base-percentage.

If you are not getting on base then you cannot score runs. Erie has only scored 10 runs on the young season, and have only scored more than one run in a game twice in the first seven games. Scram leads the team with three RBIs, all coming on one swing of the bat. Kunkel is second on the team with two RBIs.

De Leon, Kunkel, and Scram lead the team with one home run apiece.

Bullpen Woes

The ‘Wolves bullpen has followed in the lines of the offensive struggles. The relief pitchers have given up 11 earned runs in their 26 1/3 innings pitched.

TigsTown's No. 33 rated prospect Zach Simons (0-1, 15.43) has been the biggest culprit giving up 4 earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings pitched. Simons got his loss in the second game of the season giving up two runs in 2/3 innings pitched. TigsTown's' No. 50 ranked prospect Luis Marte (0-0,6.75) and Jay Voss (0-0, 7.71) have not faired well out of the pen early this season either.

Bright Spot

One of the bright spots to Erie's early struggles has been the starting pitching. The ‘Wolves starting rotation has an ERA of 3.41. Only Oliver's first start of the season can really be considered disappointing. The 2009 second-round picked struggled giving up six runs (five earned), walking five, while only pitching 3 2/3 innings. Oliver did have five strikeouts.

Thad Weber (0-1, 1.80, TigsTown's No. 25 prospect), Jon Kibler (0-2, 1.64), and L.J. Gagnier (0-0, 1.69) have been tough luck losers in their starts. The three pitchers have combined to give up just five earned runs.

Gagnier has twice been in line for a victory. In the second game of the season against the Trenton Thunder he threw five solid innings; gave up five hits, no walks, struck out five, and left with a 1-0 lead. His second start was almost as good as his first. The right-hander left the game with a 3-2 lead, giving up two runs on four hits, walking one, and striking out three.

Jon Kibler has been sharp in his first two starts. The lefty has only allowed only two earned runs, but the ‘Wolves offense has yet to score a run in any of his starts.

The most promising sign of the early season may be the start of TigsTown's No. 49 ranked prospect Duane Below (0-1, 6.75). Coming of Tommy John surgery last spring Below was dominant striking out five in the first two innings of his season debut. Although he gave up three earned runs, he did strike out seven batters in his four innings pitched.

Quick Hits

- Jeff Kunkel and Cesar Nicolas are the only Erie players to record multiple hits in a game. Kunkel's .300 batting average leads the team while Nicolas is tied with De Leon for the teams lead in hits with four.

- Wilkin Ramirez, TigsTown's No. 5 prospect has struggled early for the ‘Wolves with a .087 batting average, driving in only one run, while striking out 13 times. Ramirez tore up the Eastern League in 2008, and the outfield prospect played the 2009 season with the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens. He is still a promising outfield prospect, but must show the skills from 2008 if he wants to continue his climb toward the Majors.

- Erie looks to break out of the early season offensive funk at their hitter friendly home ballpark, Jerry Uht Park. They begin their home stand against Eastern League Western Division leader Altoona (6-1).

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