Lakeland MLN: Bright Spots in Gloomy Summer

After a strong spring, the summer months have been unkind to the Flying Tigers. The wins are harder to come by and any hopes of a playoff berth are quickly vanishing as the Florida State League North Division's cellar gets deeper and deeper.

While it has not been an easy summer to be a Flying Tiger, a handful of players have enjoyed a great deal of success recently, particularly last week, despite the team finishing the week 3-4, including two one-run losses in Ft. Myers.

In just ten games with the club, newly-signed Bryan Holaday is hitting .389 with four doubles and a home run. His .488 OPS and .538 slugging percentage give him a 1.072 OPS, the best on the team in that stretch. He has hit safely in eight of his 10 games this season and reached base in nine of them.

Brandon Douglas closed the week with a four-game hit streak in which he went 8-for-17 with a pair of doubles. Douglas' .345 batting average, .412 OBP and .860 OPS are all tops on the team among those with at least 50 at-bats. Only Jordan Lennerton's .453 slugging percentage tops Douglas' .448, and only Alden Carrithers, who led the league in hitting practically all season before getting promoted to Double-A Erie, had a better batting average (.359) for Lakeland this season than Douglas (.345).

However, despite Holaday and Douglas' recent success, the offense has had difficulty scoring runs on a consistent basis. They scored an average of less than two runs per game last week and tallied just three runs combined in their four losses, two of which were lost by just one run.

On the mound, Jon Kibler had a solid start against Ft. Myers on Sunday, tossing seven innings and allowing just one run on six hits. His record, however, dropped to 2-4 as the Flying Tigers failed to score in the 1-0 loss.

Meanwhile, Brayan Villarreal showed that he may be returning to his early-season form after a six-inning, four-hit performance against Palm Beach last week. A hit batsman and a couple of hits in the third inning, including a triple, plated two runs, and that was enough for Palm Beach, as the Flying Tigers again failed to score, dropping the first game of the double-header, 5-0. Villarreal fell to 7-4, and Lakeland would go on to lose the nightcap, 8-1.

While the Flying Tigers struggling is becoming a weekly theme, so is Adam Wilk's string of quality starts. He's 3-0 in his last three starts, and most recently he allowed just one run on three hits in six innings against Palm Beach, striking out six. His ERA, now fifth-best in the FSL, is down to .294. He is tied for third in the league in wins with seven, leads the league with 110.1 innings pitched and has the third-best WHIP at 1.08.

All of those stats are tops among Lakeland starters.

In his last three starts, Wilk has allowed just two runs on 12 hits in 19 innings, striking out 17.

Holaday, Douglas and Wilk prove that it's not all bad in Lakeland. It's just a question of how long it will take for these positives to add up to wins.

The Flying Tigers (8-16) host fellow cellar-dweller Jupiter (8-16) in a four-game set starting Thursday night, giving them an opportunity to take advantage of another struggling team to try and get back on track in the FSL North.

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