Erie MLN: Here Come the SeaWolves

Don't look now Altoona but here come the Erie SeaWolves. Winners of 6 of their last 10 games the ‘Wolves are in third-place, and have closed to within two and a half games of first-place. Erie trails only the Curve (20-12) and Richmond Flying Squirrels (20-13) in the standings.

Erie (18-15) during the last week split their series with the Binghamton Mets after winning the final game at Jerry Uht Park 7-6 on May 6. The ‘Wolves then traveled to Altoona for a three game series against the first-place Curve. Erie took 2-of-3 at Altoona and are now 7-3 against the Curve on the year.

After the short road trip Erie returned home to face the Akron Aeros for the first time this season in a three game series. Erie won 2-of-3 against the Aeros, dropping only the last game of the series. Erie has now won their seventh series of the season and are 7-0-1 in their last eight series since dropping the first two of the season.

The team hits the road after having their modest three-game winning streak broken after their 7-2 loss to Akron. Erie will play seven games in the next eight days going from Bowie to Richmond. The series against Richmond will be the first against the San Francisco Giants' Double-A affiliate.

Ramirez Provides Leadership

Coming on the heels of his Eastern League Player of the Week Award TigsTown's No. 5 prospect Wilkin Ramirez (.270) continues to be a leader for the ‘Wolves. This was never more evident then in Erie's 4-1 win over the Aeros on May 10.

The ‘Wolves center fielder stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with Josh Burrus (.217) on first, and Erie clinging to a 2-1 lead. Ramirez ripped a fastball to the 350-foot sign in left-center field scoring Burrus from first.

"You don't see too many triples to the 350 sign in left," said Manager Phil Nevin. "He's just a special athlete and for him to get to the third with Cesar (Nicolas) on deck was huge."

Ramirez scored on Nicolas' (.274) sacrifice fly to right field to extend Erie's lead to 4-1. "It was huge getting that run and making it a three run lead, especially in this ballpark," said Nevin.

Ramirez has provided leadership when he could easily be down about having to spend another season in Double-A after getting some time in the Majors.

"He knows why he is here and that good things will happen if he keeps a good head on his shoulders," Nevin said. "He's outstanding in the locker room. The guys look up to him, and it's not just because he played in the Majors but it's the way he carries himself. He has been outstanding."

Duel at the Uht

When Jon Kibler (3-0, 3.00) took the mound on May 10 he was just trying to go out and give his team the best opportunity to win. Akron starter Kelvin De La Cruz (0-1, 3.00) who was making his first start since being called up to Double-A was trying to do the same.

Kibler had a good history against the Aeros entering his start. Last season he left-hander was 2-1 in five starts with a 2.65 ERA.

Kibler allowed one hit through the first six innings as Erie took a 2-0 lead. He was able to work out of a jam in the top of the second. After a two-out walk Eastern League batting leader Cord Phelps doubled to put runners at second and third. Kibler got out of the jam striking out Josh Rodriguez to end the Akron threat.

"Kibler was great," said Nevin. "He was able to get the ball on the ground and used our defense."

"It's easy to play defense behind Kibler he keeps you involved in the game," said Andy Dirks.

"I just use my two-seamer and let my defense work for me," said Kibler.

Kibler went 7 2/3 innings allowing only four hits and one run. As good as the start was he didn't feel he had his best stuff.

"I didn't have much of a slider today, but I didn't want them to sit on my fastball so I had to show it" said Kibler. "Just tried to move the ball inside and outside and mix it up."

As good as Kibler was De La Cruz was almost as impressive in his Double-A debut. The 21 year-old kept the Erie hitters off balance for most of the evening. He made just two mistakes. He went six innings allowing five hits and only two runs.

"He had a pretty good change-up and had guys talking," said Nevin. "I thought he threw a pretty good game as well."

"In a pitcher's duel like this you just have to rise to the occasion," said Kibler. "I had no doubt that we were going to win this game with the offense we have."

Quick Hits

- Michael Bertram has been on fire over the last 15 games raising his batting average from .068 to .234. He has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games, and over the last 10 games he is hitting .405 (15-for-37).

- Cesar Nicolas has become a run producer for the ‘Wolves. He is second on the team with 26 RBIs on the year. He has 12 RBIs in his last 10 games, and has become one of Nevin's most trusted hitters.

- Erie is tied for the Eastern League lead in home runs with Binghamton at 36.

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