The DeKalb County Liners completed the first half of their inaugural season this week and start the second half today at Danville. After compiling a 10-15 record in their first 25 games, the Liners will look to turn things around in the second half to make a run at the Prospect League playoffs.
Before the second half gets underway, though, the Daily Chronicle spoke with Liners coach Jake Howells to get a midseason report on the team.
Offensive MVP: Alex Beckmann, IF/OF, Northern Illinois
Beckmann has been the offensive catalyst for the Liners this summer. The Prospect League All-Star leads DeKalb County with a .326 batting average and a .443 on-base percentage. Beckmann also has 13 RBIs, 19 walks, five doubles and four stolen bases.
"Alex Beckmann for sure has been our most consistent and best player," Howells said. "Offensively, he's been doing a great job the entire year. Defensively, he's been able to bounce around for us, which has been good. He's been our best guy."
Pitching MVP: Tom Zelasko, RP, Northern Illinois
One of the league leaders in ERA at 1.23, Zelasko has been consistently good when called upon to pitch. Opponents are hitting .176 against him and have a slugging percentage of .208, which is at 100 points better than anyone else on the staff.
"Tom Zelasko out of the pen has been really good," Howells said.
Best Game: July 2, Liners 5, Hannibal 4 in 11 innings
The Liners trailed 3-1 entering the eighth inning against Hannibal at Sycamore Park. A two-run home run by Kenton Parmley ties it up at three. Hannibal hits a home run in the top of the 11th to take a one-run lead, only to see the Liners answer with a leadoff home run in the bottom half of the inning by Joe DeBernardis.
A single followed by a sacrifice bunt and another single gave the Liners the come-from-behind win.
"That was probably the most exciting game for us," Howells said.
Looking ahead: After spending plenty of time on the road in the first half of the season, the Liners get 18 of their final 29 games at home, including a 12-game homestand starting July 15.
"It plays to our advantage having all of these home games whereas in the first half it seemed like we were on the road all the time," Howells said.
The other good news is that the season essentially starts over in the second half. The first-half division champions automatically qualify for the playoffs, but then every team's record resets to 0-0 and second-half division winners also qualify for the postseason.
That has Howells feeling good about a team that started slow but he believes is starting to play better baseball as the season has progressed.
"As far as we're concerned, we should be right in there, right in the mix," he said. "If we can continue to play good baseball we can win some of those close games. Anything can happen in the second half."