On their current road trip the ‘Wolves have faced the Altoona Curve (13-6) and Bowie Baysox (12-8). The Curve and Baysox are the top two teams in the Eastern League Western Division. Erie has had success against both though going 5-2 against the first-place Curve and are 4-1 against the second-place Baysox.
"We preach winning series around here," said Manager Phil Nevin. ‘We were pressing early on in the season."
Erie is not only winners of five straight games, but the ‘Wolves have won their last four series and have found themselves just four games out of first-place.
"No looking at records yet," said Nevin
One of the reasons for the team's recent success is their starting pitching. Erie has three starters in the top 20 for ERA in the Eastern League.
"Our starters set the tone for us each game," said leftfielder Andy Dirks (TigsTown's No. 47 prospect).
Gagnier Continues Early Season Excellence
L.J. Gagnier earned his second win of the season in Erie's 10-3 win against the Altoona Curve on Sunday April 25. The right-hander went five strong innings allowing only two unearned runs while striking out three.
Gagnier has left with the lead in each of his four starts for the ‘Wolves. His ERA currently ranks seventh in the Eastern League. He has 18 strikeouts on the season to rank sixth and his .94 WHIP is tied for eighth in the league.
His first win of the season came in Erie's 7-2 win over Bowie on Tuesday April 20. He went 7 2/3 innings allowing two earned runs while striking out seven.
Below Gets First Win
Just 10 ½ months after Tommy John surgery TigsTown's No. 49 prospect Duane Below (1-3, 6.39) got his first win of the season in the ‘Wolves' 7-2 win over the Baysox on Tuesday April 27.
In the win Below had his longest outing of the season going five innings. He allowed two unearned runs on two hits while striking out 10.
"He's worked hard to get back, and he competes each time out," said Nevin.
To protect Below in his comeback the ‘Wolves have set a pitch count for the southpaw. He is limited to 75-80 pitches an outing and they don't want him to throw more than 30 pitches in an inning.
"We're going to protect him," Nevin said.
Even with the limited pitch count, and some early season trouble locating pitches Below has shown that he can put away hitters. He features a fastball that has touched as high as 93 MPH and sits between 89-91. His curveball has shown good depth and the ability to miss hitters' bats. He is tied for second in the Eastern League with 20 strikeouts.
Ciriaco Adjusting Well
When TigsTown's No. 16 prospect Audy Ciriaco came off the disabled list and was called up to Erie he knew that he would be playing a new position. With TigsTown's No. 11 ranked prospect Cale Iorg playing shortstop Ciriaco made the move to third base.
"It's different playing third, but I'm getting more comfortable," said Ciriaco.
He just hasn't been comfortable in the field though. Ciriaco has made an impression with his bat as well. Since joining the ‘Wolves Ciriaco is hitting a team leading .303 (10-for-33) with a home run and 5 RBIs. He has shown improved plate discipline as well, striking out only three times.
"I'm just trying to do my best and hit the ball hard," Ciriaco said.
Ciriaco also has made his presence known on the base paths swiping three bases without being caught in just eight games with the team.
"Audy has been great so far," said Nevin. "He's going to be a great third baseman."
Erie Flexes Home Run Stroke
Despite the ‘Wolves ranking second to last in the Eastern League with a team batting average of .221, Erie is tied for second in the league with 20 home runs. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez (.247, TigsTown's No. 5 prospect) leads the team with four home runs.
Outfielder Deik Scram (.192, 3 HRs, TigsTown's No. 30 prospect), catcher Max St. Pierre (.231, 3 HRs), and Dirks are tied for second on the team with three home runs apiece.
The ‘Wolves have hit eight home runs on the road trip with one game still remaining. They are not just hitting the long ball on the current road trip, but hitting them in key situations as well. Scram helped Erie get their first win on the road this season when he hit a two-run home run off of Altoona's Jeff Sues in the top of the ninth to break a 4-4 tie.
The next night St. Pierre came through in the clutch against Altoona pitcher Dustin Molleken. With the ‘Wolves trailing 3-1 the veteran catcher hammered a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning to give Erie a 4-3 lead that they would hold on to for their second straight win. In the series opener against the Baysox it was designated hitter Cesar Nicolas (.254, 1HR) who delivered the clutch home run. Nicolas' home run in the top of the sixth inning broke a 2-2 tie as Erie went on to win 7-2, their fourth straight on the road.
- Jon Kibler looks for his third win of the season in the finale against Bowie today at 11:05 a.m. Kibler won his first meeting against Bowie back on April 19, 5-3. In the game he went seven innings giving up three runs (two earned) and struck out four.
- Cale Iorg and Andy Dirks are the only ‘Wolves players to appear in all 19 games so far this season.
- Erie is home for seven game home stand starting Friday. They will face the Trenton Thunder (9-10) for the first three games before closing it out with four games against the Binghamton Mets (11-9).