Lakeland MLN: Shutting It Down from the Mound

It was a great week for the Flying Tigers as they cruised to a 6-1 record for the week, including more outstanding pitching. The Flying Tigers allowed just 13 runs all week long, including a shutout led by Luke Putkonen and two strong seven inning showings from Mark Sorensen.

Putkonen, who has been outstanding all season long for the Flying Tigers, stepped up even more with his best start of the season, tossing 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball. Putkonen yielded just four hits and one walk in his appearance, while striking out three. This came just five days after tossing six shutout innings to pick up a win.

However, it's important to caveat the showing from Putkonen. His performance came against Jupiter, which ranks dead last in the Florida State League in just about every offensive statistical category, including average, total bases and OPS, and second to last in runs scored.

Putkonen wasn't the only starter to shine though, as Mark Sorensen picked up a pair of wins over the past seven days. He went seven innings deep in each game and also struck out five in each while walking none. The three total runs and 12 total hits he allowed helped produce a weekly WHIP under one and a weekly ERA under two.

While Sorensen has been giving up hits this season, his K:BB ratio has simply been outstanding. For the season, he's struck out 34 while walking only six.

Sorensen hasn't quite received the prospect notoriety one might expect from his numbers due to his more advanced age for his level – he's 24 years old in high-A ball – but if he continues to pitch as well as he did now, falling up on a very successful '09 campaign with West Michigan, and he's going to begin to aggressively make noise.

Their two performances just underscore the fact that the entire Lakeland pitching staff has simply been lights out and is the primary reason behind the Flying Tigers success so far. While the team hasn't been able to stick in first place for long, they've been able to push the .500 mark and stick above it for a good portion the season is because of the arms.

The Flying Tigers boast the best pitching staff in the Florida State League, and it's really not even close. The team sports an ERA of 2.58, more than a half run better than Clearwater, who is second in the FSL with a 3.09 ERA. The club, while not a strong group in the strikeout department, has been incredibly efficient with a K:BB ratio better than four (at 4.05), again best in the FSL by a wide margin (Bradenton comes in second with a 3.38 K:BB ratio).

The arms on the mound have certainly been leading the way, but all is not completely quiet at the plate, especially from second baseman Alden Carrithers. Carrithers went 15-for-32 (good for a .469 average) over the past week, and also took four walks in the process. While he didn't hit for much power (just one double among the 15 hits), Carrithers has earned his way to the top of the batting order with a team best .459 OBP.

The Flying Tigers wrap up their series with Jupiter on Wednesday midday before returning to begin a four game weekend series with Port St. Lucie. After that, the Flying Tigers will begin another of their patented home-and-home series with the Tampa Yankees. With both teams sitting right around .500, they will be key barometer games as they remain the types of teams Lakeland needs to beat regularly if they hope to make a run at the first half division crown.

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