Lakeland MLN: LFT Hot Like May in Florida

As spring gives way to the summer, the Florida days get hot. Apparently, the Flying Tigers do the same. After barely cracking .500 through April, the Flying Tigers won 6-of-7 for the second consecutive week and 15 of their last 18, improving to 16-8 in May.

Their latest three-game win streak propelled them into second place, just 1 1/2 games behind the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League North Division.

The Flying Tigers outscored their opponents 47-26 during the week, and Kody Kaiser and Brent Wyatt led the offensive charge. Kaiser went 12-26 at the plate and belted his third home run of the season for two of his 12 RBIs for the week. Wyatt was 13-28, and is currently third in the league in hitting behind teammates Rawley Bishop and Alden Carrithers, who leads the league hitting .359. Their team batting average (.267) is just four points behind league-leading Bradenton.

While the offense scored almost seven runs per game during the week, the pitching staff pulled their weight with a cumulative 3.43 ERA for the week, allowing more than four runs just twice: Once in an 11-7 win at Jupiter and again in a 5-2 loss to St. Lucie.

Pitching struggles in the early innings and timely hitting late in the game defined the week, as Lakeland pitchers allowed 16 of the 26 runs given up during the week in the first five innings. Meanwhile, the Flying Tigers offense scored 14 runs in the seventh inning or later, including Wyatt's walk-off RBI double, his third hit of the game, that ended an 11-inning affair against St. Lucie to give Lakeland a 5-4 victory.

A definite positive on the mound was the perseverance of left-hander Adam Wilk. After getting shelled for seven runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings at Jupiter last Wednesday, he came back strong against Tampa, striking out eight and allowing just one run on four hits in eight innings to earn his third win of the year and improve his ERA to 3.64.

With starters struggling at times, the Flying Tigers got solid production out of their bullpen, as relievers Cory Hamilton, Robert Waite and Miguel Mejia combined for two wins while throwing 10 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out nine.

And that is how teams get hot and stay hot. When starting pitching struggles, the bullpen picks them up. When the arms are asleep, the bats come alive. So, if the offense gets into a funk, and the Flying Tigers want to have a shot at catching Dunedin, it will be the starting pitchers' turn to step up.

You can never underestimate the importance of momentum, and Dunedin and Lakeland are the two hottest teams in the league right now. The Blue Jays have won seven straight to remain atop the division, but the Flying Tigers are right in the rearview. Meanwhile, Clearwater has faltered, losing six straight and dropping into third.

Lakeland (27-18) wraps-up a series with Tampa (24-22) Wednesday night before returning home to host Palm Beach (23-21 and losers of seven of their last 10) for a four-game weekend series to close the month as they try to carry their momentum into June, where they hope to contend with Dunedin for the first-half division crown.

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