Records Fall During 18-1 Gems StreakJuly 20, 2012 - West Coast League (WCL) Klamath Falls Gems
Starting with a 14-2 win over the Cowlitz Black Bears on June 28, the Gems are undefeated since, save for a 9-5 loss in Kelowna on July 9. The team is 13-1 in July going into Friday's game at Walla Walla, and has gone from a distant fifth place in the WCL West to three games out of the division lead. The Gems have swept four series during the streak including a 7-0 season sweep over the Kitsap BlueJackets.
"This has been the freakiest year I've ever been involved in, and I've been in this business for most of the last 20 years," Gems General Manager Chuck Heeman said. "I've never been around a team that went 2-18, and I've never been around a team that went 18-1, and all in the same year. This just doesn't happen."
During the streak a number of Gems team records have fallen and even a few WCL records are within reach. As a team, the current nine-game winning streak in league games is a record, surpassing the seven-game streak just prior to the lone loss of the 18-1 run (the Gems added two non-league wins during the seven-game league win streak). The team is within one of reaching last year's team record for league wins in a season.
In team records, both RHP Christian Coronado (Cal State Fullerton) and RHP Mitch Merten (UC Irvine) have four wins, breaking the team record of three. 3B Austin Byler (Nevada-Reno), with six home runs, has easily eclipsed the team record of two. Byler, 1B Josh Wong (Hawaii-Hilo) and 2B Parker Miles (Chemetka JC) have all reached or surpassed the team record of 21 runs batted in. OF Nick Rulli (Oregon State) hit the first grand slam in Gems history on July 18 to seal a 9-1 win over Kitsap.
At the league level, Miles now has 31 walks and is sure to break the league record of 36. He also has a current on base percentage of .559, and should surpass the league record of .496. Four of the top 11 hitters in the WCL are Gems, with Byler (.386), Miles (.364) in the top two spots, Wong (.352) in fourth and OF Greg Velazquez (.327) in 11th place. Byler is in a three-way tie for the league home run lead, and Wong is in the top six in all three triple crown categories, with four home runs and 25 RBI to go with his .352 average. The league record of 66 hits is within reach by Byler (39), Miles (36) and Wong (43) with 17 league games to go, with Velazquez (32 hits) not far behind. With a .270 team batting average, the WCL record of .285 is also within reach.
Merten and Coronado are tied for third in the WCL in wins. LHP Bryan Clough (Santa Ana JC) and RHP Nathan Bunch (St. Joseph's, IN) are 2-3 in the strikeout race with 41 and 40, respectively. Merten is second in the league with a 1.39 ERA. RHP Thomas Eshelman (Cal State Fullerton) has started his WCL career with 16 scoreless innings. With a .270 team batting average, the WCL record of .285 is within reach.
"The key to this turnaround has been (Head Coach) Josh Hogan and the great staff and culture he's put together," Heeman said. "Many of our front-line players didn't arrive until mid-June so we were shorthanded, but Josh installed a culture and mindset that gave us a feeling that things would turn around. When we got off to a bad start, we knew why it happened and nobody panicked. We knew what we had coming in.
"Once the bulk of our team got here in mid-June, that mindset Josh brings to us caught on and it's been amazing. The work ethic and demeanor of the team has been incredible. The guys have bought in to the process, and that feeds on itself. Keep with the process and we see results "" when we see results we keep with the process. Josh and the coaching staff have been tremendous and it's been an amazing experience being around them."
As a testament to the Gems' turnaround, the team has placed five players on the 2012 WCL All-Star Team. The five (Byler, Wong, Miles, SS Tanner Nielsen and C Josh Graham) comprise the team's entire infield and easily surpasses the team record in number of All-Stars voted to that honor. The team had one player named to the squad in 2011.
The Gems continue their season with an 11-game road trip from July 20 through August 3 and finish the season at home with six games against Bend and Corvallis. The three "" Bend, Corvallis and Klamath Falls "" are currently within three games of each other in the battle for the 2012 WCL West crown.
West Coast League Stories from July 20, 2012
- Elks fall to Bells 6-2 - Bend Elks
- Black Bears Lose to Wenatchee - Cowlitz Black Bears
- Records Fall During 18-1 Gems Streak - Klamath Falls Gems
- Kelowna Falcons Win a Thriller - Kelowna Falcons
- Black Bears Win 5-2 at Walla Walla - Cowlitz Black Bears
- Elks Fall 7-19-12 - Bend Elks
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