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Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Mariners face tough road in GLSCL second half

By Gary R. Rasberry
With the season at its unofficial halfway point with the All-Star Break, the Grand Lake Mariners are just barely outside the top six that make the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League postseason.
Thanks to a three-game win streak, the Mariners are above .500 at 12-11 (.522 winning percentage). Thanks to a win on Monday, though, Stark County edged ahead of the Mariners for sixth place in the league standings. The Mariners are currently five games back of league leader Lima (17-6), but only a half-game out of sixth place as the Terriers are at 15-13. Playoff spots are based on winning percentage and the Mariners are just .014 back of Stark County (.536)
The stretch run holds a plethora of challenges for Grand Lake. Of the 17 games left in the league season, only five come against the bottom three teams in the standings - Licking County, Xenia and Anderson. Of those three, Licking County is still in the chase for the playoffs playing at a .385 clip at 10-16. Xenia and Anderson are well out of the chase with a combined record of 8-43, with Anderson winning only three of 25 games this summer.
It's the final stretch of games, however, that could play a big part in whether or not Grand Lake makes the postseason. The Mariners host Columbus (17-9) on July 28 before going to Lake Erie (13-13) on Friday. Then Grand Lake travels to Delaware (17-9) for a doubleheader on Saturday before returning to face rival Lima on July 29 to end the season.
If the Mariners do get in, being the final seed is nothing to be too concerned about. Last year the Mariners got in at 20-19 with the final spot, then captured the tournament title in Lima.
Ups and downs
It's been an up and down year for the Mariners, both on the mound and at the plate.
After six games this season, the Mariners had a .294 batting average, but unfortunately, the pitching was struggling, boasting an ERA of 5.72.
The next 17 games showed differing trends. The pitching has been improved cutting nearly 1.50 off the ERA with a more respectable 4.30, which is still last in the league.
Unfortunately, the batting has taken a slide, dropping to a .239 average. Only Licking County (.222), Anderson (.212) and Xenia (.209), the three bottom teams in the GLSCL, are hitting less than the Mariners.
Bright spots
• Marc Krauss: The Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year has done what everyone has expected from him. The Patrick Henry grad is seventh in the GLSCL with a .373 batting average and his 31 hits lead the league.
• Michael Earley: Last week he was batting .213. In the next six games, he raised his average to .250 with a six-game clip of .333 (7-of-21) with a home run. His twinbill with Delaware helped as he went 4-for-6 with three RBI.
• Brad Piatt: Piatt is one of only four pitchers in the GLSCL to post a 4-0 record and had a strong argument for All-Star consideration. His 21 strikeouts leads the Mariners.
• Kyle Heyne: The MVP of last year's GLSCL tournament is still going strong. Many of the GLSCL teams were hoping that he would reach a deal with Minnesota to pitch in the Twins' minor league system rather than have to face the Coldwater native, who is third in the league with five saves.
Derek Martin, a middle of the order run producer for the Mariners, has left the team due to health concerns.
Martin, a regular at third base, was batting .279 with five doubles and nine RBI in 17 starts for the Mariners.
Mariners in the pros
• Cory Luebke has been a solid pitcher since joining the Eugene Emeralds (Short-Season Class A: San Diego Padres) after getting selected with the 63rd overall pick in June's Amateur Draft.
Being on a limited schedule after a workhorse spring with Ohio State, Luebke has helped the Emeralds jump out to a 14-7 start, three games back to Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League West Division.
The Marion Local southpaw, who pitched with the Mariners in 2005, has appeared in three games, his last being his first start. Luebke is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six innings of work. Luebke has struck out six batters and has yet to allow a walk.
The Emeralds host the Everett Aqua Sox (Seattle affiliate) tonight at 7:05 p.m. Pacific Time (10:05 p.m. Ohio Time). Fans can go to to listen to a broadcast of the game.
• Another former Mariner in the Great Northwest is Andrew DeLaGarza (2004-2005). DeLaGarza has had a solid season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (San Francisco affiliate), the leaders in the Northwest League West.
Working in middle relief, DeLaGarza is 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA. In 12 2/3 innings, DeLaGarza has struck out 10 and walked just one in scattering nine hits.
• Craig Stammen (2005 Mariners) came off with a strong effort in his last start on Sunday in helping the Potomac Nationals (Single A: Washington Nationals) beat the Lynchburg Hillcats 5-2 in Carolina League play.
Stammen, a Versailles graduate who went on to pitch at the University of Dayton, scattered four hits over six innings, walking only two and striking out four to improve to 6-5 on the season and moving the P-Nats to 10-8 in the second half of the CL Northern Division.
Stammen is just 1/3 inning behind teammate Shairon Martis in innings pitched with 93 and in wins with six. Stammen leads the team with 66 strikeouts, good for ninth in the CL.
Potomac returns to action after the All-Star Break on Wednesday with a road trip to Northern Division leader Wilmington.
• Overseas in Japan, a pair of former Mariners have been seeing time in the NPB, Japan's Major Leagues.
Alex Graman (1998) picked up his first save of the season on Saturday, helping the Seibu Lions beat the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, 3-0, in Pacific League play. Graman pitched a perfect ninth to help complete the five-hit shutout of the Hawks.
Graman has made 16 appearances this season for Seibu with a 0-0 record and an ERA of 4.74, striking out 45 in 57 innings.
The Lions are at .500 with a 37-37-2 record in the Pacific League, seven games back of the Nippon Ham Fighters.
In the NPB's Central League, Brian Sikorski (1994) joined the team mid-season after playing last season in the United States for San Diego and Cleveland, joining the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on June 19.
Sikorski has appeared in five games this season for a total of 4 1/3 innings, recording no decisions and an 8.31 ERA.
The Swallows have struggled this season, going 32-40, 10 1/2 games back to the Yomiuri Giants in the standings.

GLSCL Standings:GLSCL Standings going into the All-Star Break
W  L  Pct.  GB
Lima  17  6  .739  -
Columbus  17  9  .625  11/2
Delaware  17  9  .625  11/2
Cincinnati  14  9  .625  21/2
Southern Ohio  15  10  .600  3
Stark County  15  13  .536  41/2
Grand Lake  12  11  .522  5
Lake Erie  13  13  .500  51/2
Licking County  10  16  .385  81/2
Xenia  5  21  .192  131/2
Anderson  3  22  .120  15

• Top six teams based on winning percetage advance to GLSCL Tournament in Columbus.
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