MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Myrtle Beach Pelicans back home with plenty of momentum

mmckinnon@thesunnews.comApril 15, 2014 

Despite being swept by Salem in their first home series, the Pelicans found a way turn things around on the road.

In fact, Myrtle Beach matched its best road trip in team history (2004).

The Pelicans – who swept a three-game series with Wilmington and completed a four-game sweep of Salem – also tied a club record for the longest road winning streak at seven games.

“I’m not really too concerned about the wins and losses right now. We’re going to win a bunch and we’re going to lose some,” Myrtle Beach manager Joe Mikulik said after Tuesday’s game against the Potomac Nationals was suspended after two innings. “Our main focus as a team is to play as a team and compete every day. Just coming to the ballpark and getting ready to play is our biggest focus. The results will come in time.

“With player development, it’s a process we have to go through and it’s not easy. Nobody ever wants to get out to an 0-4 start but it happens and you have to deal with it. How you deal with it is up to us. I thought we dealt with it well; we went out on the road and played well,” he added.

“It’s a great feeling to get back on track and we just have to keep them focused every day.”

The Pelicans raised their team batting average from .213 to .256 during the seven-game winning streak. During the 0-4 start, Myrtle Beach struggled at the plate with runners in scoring position, going just 2-for-23 (.086). The Pelicans turned that around as they went 24-for-73 (.329) with runners in scoring position during the seven-game road trip, raising the team’s RISP average from .176 to .271.

“I don’t know if it was any one particular thing that helped us get there. The guys played with a lot of energy, I know that,” said Mikulik, who has 15 years of managing experience, including 13 with the Asheville Tourists. “They played with a lot of energy when we lost the four games. I think we had a combination of good pitching and offense … timely hitting. This is a good ballclub, they come and prepare and if they do what we ask them to do, they’re going to be pretty good.”

Myrtle Beach slugger Joey Gallo, who led all of minor league baseball in 2013 with 38 home runs, hit five home runs in as many games during the road trip and was named Carolina League Player of the Week for his play from April 3-13. Gallo led the eight-team Carolina League in home runs (4), slugging percentage (.727), tied for first in walks (8), and was second in runs (9) during that span and homered again on Monday.

“It was a great week,” said Gallo, who spent last season with Low-A Hickory. “Obviously it’s always really good to be winning games. We won seven in a row on the road so that was really good and we all played well. I hit a few [home runs] so that made it look a little bit better to win player of the week.”

Mikulik said Gallo has been constantly making adjustments to his game, which in turn is helping him succeed in the field and at the plate.

“Joey has approached the game like a professional,” Mikulik said. “He’s had some very good professional at-bats and he’s doing what he’s capable of doing. It’s not like we’re expecting him to hit five home runs in a short period of time, but that’s what he’s got; he has that in his repertoire. It was good to watch him play. Those home runs were not cheap home runs, they were no-doubters. But a lot of other guys have pitched in as well.”

Gallo credits the team’s composure for the turnaround.

“We just didn’t panic,” he said. “We went 0-4 and we knew we’re a good team. We went on the road and were playing like it’s the start of the season again and kind of started from scratch.”

And Gallo has high hopes for the team.

“I don’t set expectations for myself individually, but our expectation as a team this year is to win a ring. Hopefully we can do that,” he said.

Notes

• The Pelicans’ game against the Nationals that was suspended on Tuesday will be finished Wednesday as part of a doubleheader starting at 6:05 p.m.

• Myrtle Beach starter Cody Buckel allowed four earned runs on three hits and four walks before departing after 1 2/3 innings.

• Pelicans right fielder Royce Bolinger hit a two-RBI home run in the bottom of the second inning to cut Myrtle Beach’s deficit to two runs.

• Pelicans center fielder Chris Garia drove in Odubel Herrera on a triple later in the second to cut the Pelicans’ deficit to 3-4.

Contact MAX MCKINNON at 626-0302.

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