Looking for a leader
It's been a struggle lately for the Quad-Cities River Bandits, who have gone 4-15 since moving into second place and within 1.5 games of first in the Midwest League's Western Division on May 20.
The slide has come on the road and at home, where Quad-Cities started the year 15-5 before losing eight of its last nine games.
Manager Steve Dillard continues to look for someone - anyone - on his team to step up and help lead the River Bandits out of their late first-half funk.
"When we have a chance, we need to make the most of it and we haven't been doing that. I'm not seeing guys pick each other up, driving in that run when the chance is there and that is what it takes," Dillard said.
"We're giving guys opportunities, but they have to make that chance count when it is there. That's the only thing that is going to get us out of this funk."
For a generation of baseball fans in the Quad-Cities, Ron "Roadrunner'' Plein was a regular at what was known as John O'Donnell Stadium.
He worked as a clubhouse manager for the locally owned Quad-City Angels, and drew occasional grief from fans hoping to collect a souvenir as he worked to retrieve foul balls whenever they were hit into the stands.
Plein relocated to Cedar Rapids when the Angels affiliate switched to that club in 1993 and has worked as the Kernels' clubhouse and equipment manager since.
The 65-year-old Dubuque native will likely be with Cedar Rapids when it visits Quad-Cities beginning tonight, but he won't be chasing any foul balls.
Plein suffered a broken ankle when he fell following a collision with a batboy as both attempted to retrieve a dead ball behind home plate during a game at Wisconsin last week. Play was halted for 21 minutes as medical personnel assisted.
Despite the injury, Plein continued his work with the Kernels during a weekend homestand.
Clinton's pitching staff has been dominant throughout the first half of the season and it is no accident that the LumberKings have a league-best team ERA of 3.32.
"Our pitchers overall, and our starters in particular, have been consistent all year,'' Clinton manager Scott Steinmann said. "They've gotten it done from one night to the next.''
That consistency has continued after right-handed starters Steven Hensley and Adam Harben were promoted by the Mariners to Double-A West Tennessee and high-A High Desert, respectively.
Clinton sent three of the league's top six ERA leaders to the mound in successive starts this week at Quad-Cities, with league-leading Brett Lorin following Aaron Pribanic and Kenn Kasparek to the mound.
"They aren't going to give an opponent much to work with and when they have struggled a bit, they've come back strong in their next start,'' Steinmann said. "They've kept us in games.''
Opponent: Cedar Rapids Kernels
When: Today-Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Modern Woodmen Park
FYI: Today, Modern Woodmen Night, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union Youth Night; Thursday, Thirst-day Thursday beverage discounts and Awful Night; Friday, Scout Night, Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation Women of Inspiration Night and postgame fireworks; Saturday, Brett Wallace bobblehead giveaway, Rockin' Saturday postgame concert with the New Orleans sound of Rockin' Jake and Father's Day play catch on the field
Opponent: Peoria Chiefs
When: Sunday, 2 p.m.; Monday, doubleheader, 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: O'Brien Field, Peoria, Ill.
Opponent: Peoria Chiefs
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Alliant Energy Field, Clinton, Iowa
FYI: Today, Mediacom LumberKings Card Strip No. 2 giveaway; Thursday, Thirsty Thursday beverage discounts; Friday, American Family Insurance Night; Saturday, Jewel-Osco/KGCW LumberKings oven mitt giveaway
Opponent: Beloit Snappers
When: Sunday, 2 p.m.; Monday-Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Pohlmann Field, Beloit, Wis.
By the numbers
Date of the last game Quad-Cities lost by more than 14 runs, the margin in the River Bandits' 16-2 loss to Clinton on Monday. The LumberKings were the opponent in that game as well, winning by a 19-4 score in a game played at Clinton on May 8, 1999.
Around the horn
Burlington: A .478 batting average led to outfielder Jarrod Dyson being named Midwest League batter of the week. In five games, he scored eight runs and stole six bases in addition to going 11-for-23 at the plate.
Clinton: The LumberKings' Kenn Kasparek is the Midwest League pitcher of the week. He didn't earn a decision, but struck out 18, walked two and gave up two earned runs in 11-plus innings of work. Kasparek was a 12th-round pick out of Texas in 2008.
West Michigan: Midwest League strikeouts leader Mauricio Robles was placed on the disabled list Friday. Robles has struck out 70 batters in 53 innings in addition to going 4-3 with a 3.91 ERA for the Whitecaps.
Wisconsin: Brett Lawrie, the Brewers' No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, underwent surgery Monday to repair a broken nose suffered in a May 21 game at Kane County. A ball caromed off second base and struck Lawrie in the nose, causing the fracture. He is expected to miss only a handful of games.
Have a question pertaining to the Midwest League, the River Bandits or the LumberKings? Steve Batterson will find your answer.
You can email it to Steve at sbatterson@qctimes, snail mail it to him at Steve Batterson, Quad-City Times, P.O. Box 3828, Davenport IA 52801 or call him at (563) 383-2290