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Prep Sports

Slammers upbeat despite challenge

JOLIET – In most sports, a team that wins a championship one season is likely to be a contender again the next season.

But that hasn’t been the case in recent years in the Frontier League, where the Joliet Slammers have been competing since their first season in 2011. Of the past nine league champions, only three have qualified for the next year’s playoffs.

As defending champions, manager Jeff Isom’s Slammers deserved some respect since they had made the playoffs in two of the past three years.

But when the Slammers only returned a third of their players from that championship team, there likely was going to be some trouble. It hasn’t been easy, and the Slammers still have a lot of work to do to make the postseason this year.

They entered Thursday’s home series finale against Evansville with a 24-37 record, which placed them 11 games behind East Division leader Lake Erie and nine games in back of Schaumburg. The Slammers only play 12 of their final 33 games at home. This weekend, they start a stretch where they’ll be on the road for 12 of the next 15 games.

“The thing that we do on a nightly basis is that we pitch, so we give ourselves opportunities to be in games,” Isom said. “We’ve been in a lot of games where we just came up short. We feel that as long as our pitchers give us opportunities and we put together some good at-bats to score some more runs, we can win some games and also series.”

In recent years, the Frontier League has featured plenty of hitters with big numbers and an equally large number of hurlers with lofty ERAs. But this season, pitching numbers are better and the offenses are struggling.

That trend is demonstrated by the fact that the league batting average is .246, which is .14 points lower than what it’s averaged during the previous five seasons. Meanwhile, ERAs are averaging about 3.74 after averaging 4.20 the previous five years.

Joliet definitely has been affected by the improved pitching and is hitting only .214, which is by far its worst average in recent years. Slammers hitters who lead their team in batting average are Brian Parreira, Riley Krane, Peyton Isaacson, Harrison Bragg, Chaz Meadows and London Lindley.

As for pitching, this year’s staffs at Lake Erie (3.06) and Schaumburg (3.12) have the two-best ERAs over the past six years. Joliet’s 3.85 ERA this season is second only to its 3.68 standard from 2018. Slammers pitchers with the top ERAs are Ryan Koziol, Mario Samuel, Daren Osby, Matt Quintana, Drew Peden and Wes Albert.

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