The Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp are enjoying the comforts of home at Schweickert Stadium in Peru.
The Shrimp are in the midst of a stretch of eight home games out of nine with the lone road game a trip to Lafayette on Saturday.
“I think being at home is really good for us because we’re not on the road,” infielder Harry Mauterer said. “We’re going to be able to get more sleep. Staying consistent, showing up to the field every day wanting to win, wanting to compete, I think that’s going to be really beneficial for us.”
The Shrimp have a winning record at home, while they’re 3-3 on the road.
“It’s really good,” outfielder Isaiah Hart said about the stretch of home games. “It allows us to come in early and get extra swings without having to take long bus trips and being tired before you show up. We have a lot of reasons to keep playing hard and give the fans a show.”
After the home stretch ends with a doubleheader Monday against the Lafayette Aviators, the script will flip with eight of nine games on the road.
LEAGUE’S TOP PITCHING STAFF
Through Tuesday, the Shrimp are leading the Prospect League in team ERA at 3.85.
The Shrimp’s pitching staff has been strong recently, allowing four runs or fewer in five of their past seven games, including back-to-back shutouts against the Clinton LumberKings (5-0) and Normal CornBelters (7-0).
Nick Laxner is fourth in the league in ERA at 2.19.
Ottawa graduate Jared Herzog has a 0.00 ERA but doesn’t have enough innings pitched to qualify for the league leaders.
Other Shrimp pitchers with multiple appearances and sub-2.50 ERAs are Justin Rios (1.69), Noah Schultz (1.69), Daniel Vogt (2.00), Kevin Davis (2.08) and Jason Shanner (2.45).
Herzog and Rios are tied for third in the league in wins, as both are 2-0, while Davis is seventh in strikeouts with 16 in 8 2/3 innings over three appearances.
The Shrimp are fourth as a team in strikeouts with 120 through 12 games.
CHANGING HIS APPROACH
Hart had a tough season with Purdue-Fort Wayne this spring as he hit .184 (26 for 141) with 13 RBIs and 11 runs.
But so far, his summer with the Shrimp is going well.
In nine games, Hart is hitting .375 (9 for 24) with a .500 on-base percentage, a home run, a double, six runs and five RBIs.
“I struggled a lot in the spring,” Hart said. “I think in the spring I was worried about each at-bat trying to get a hit, but when I came this summer, I switched my focus to trying to produce a good at-bat, whether that’s working a walk or making good contact. I think switching focus from stats based to process based has really helped make a difference in my at-bats.”
Hart came up big in a 10-6 come-from-behind win over Burlington on Tuesday as he hit a solo home run and had an RBI single as part of a five-run seventh inning.
“I think I really focused on trying to have team at-bats,” Hart said. “I thought about trying to get it done for then team, and a lot of pressure was taken away from me. I think that’s why I was able to come through.”
Mauterer made a couple of tough plays in Tuesday’s win over Burlington.
In the sixth inning, he made a sliding stop, and although he didn’t have time to make the throw to first, he fired the ball to the plate to get Joey Fitzgerald out. In the seventh, he charged in to field the ball before making a tough throw to first base to get the out.
“I have been happy so far [with my defense],” Mauterer said. “There was that one pop-up [in the seventh inning] I should have caught [in shallow right field near the foul line], but I was able to get him out at second. The pitchers are doing a great job just getting guys to put balls in play and giving the defense an opportunity to make plays.”
Head coach Stefen Henderson has been pleased with the team’s defense, as the Shrimp were errorless in three of their past four games through Tuesday.
“We’ve been throwing the ball really well,” Henderson said. “Our defense has completely raised the bar. We’ve been making plays behind our pitching.”