Baseball: Slammers stumble vs. Miners
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media June 28, 2012 11:08PM
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:23AM
Complaints about the hot weather were common Thursday, but the Joliet Slammers already were feeling the heat.
The team has struggled to put good pitching and hitting together since a stretch of eight wins in nine games that ended June 2. Manager Bart Zeller said he was “embarrassed’’ by the 11-8 loss Wednesday to the Southern Illinois Miners.
“We had a meeting, and I was more than vocal about the way we played, and direct to the players that they have to step it up,’’ Zeller said. “I don’t want the coaches to care more than the players.’’
Abel Nieves had provided a positive with a ninth-inning home run in Wednesday’s loss, but the Slammers couldn’t follow up that spark Thursday night and fell 7-4 to Southern Illinois at Silver Cross Field.
The Slammers (17-21) scored twice in the first and once in the fifth to make it 3-3, including RBI singles by Josh Lyon in both innings, but they failed with runners on second and third and no outs in the sixth.
Joliet’s Jake Renshaw made just his fourth start and was lifted with no outs in the sixth after allowing four runs on seven hits.
“I would say he’s probably three to four starts away from being fully healthy,’’ pitching coach Carmen Pignatiello said of last year’s ace, who has seen limited action since missing part of training camp after the birth of his second child.
Renshaw won his final seven starts of the 2011 regular season and led the league with 13 victories.
Zeller, the Frontier League’s 2011 Manager of the Year, offered a few other observations about his struggling team. He saw Nieves’ ninth-inning homer Wednesday as an example of how a player should approach the game:
“What it says to me is the kid never quits. He gives it 100 percent, every inning, every at-bat. That’s all you can ask of anybody is effort. Sometimes I don’t get that effort from some of the other guys.’’
What Zeller didn’t like after Wednesday’s loss was the urgency by a few players to satisfy their postgame appetite.
“I came in and five or six guys were right in the food line,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right to me when we played like we did, the most important thing would be to get something to eat. Maybe you go to your locker, sit down and talk a little, that we have to pick it up.’’
It’s food for thought for the Slammers, who finish the series against Southern Illinois with a 7:05 p.m. game Friday before a three-game road series against the Rockford RiverHawks.