Lincoln Saltogs – These Dogs Come with a Bite: Lincoln Line
For any team, there are two objectives that virtually any organization wants during a season. One is to get better as the season goes along, and two is to get hot when it really counts. The Saltdogs can say mission accomplished. They have truly blossomed out of a mediocre May and established themselves as a real player in the post-season with an August run that saw them climb over the Gary Southshore RailCats and into the playoffs.
The Saltdogs opened the season with a dramatic 16-inning win, but the month turned sour quickly. In May they went 6-9 the rest of the month and were 1.5 games out of first. In June they were 13-13 and suffered through a dreadful stretch where they lost seven of nine games. The month ended with them in third place, and had the feel like the team was going to be an also ran, but two things in particular happened with their pitching staff that gave some serious hope for their season. The first was that starter Marquis Fleming had a great run winning three of four decisions. The other was that closer Marshall Schuler saved 11 of the 13 games that the team won in the month. He had quickly established himself. He gave up seven runs in 14 appearances, but five of those runs came in two outings. He had saves in four appearances at the end of the month where the Saltdogs won two games from both Laredo and Wichita.
For most of July the team battled through stretches where they could not win more than two games, and didn’t lose more than two. They then won four in a row from the 20-23, but finished the month dropping four of five. They were 14-12 for the month, but all that earned them was a .500 record overall, and five games out of first place. However, as the calendar turned to August, a light-switched seemed to have turned on in their season, and they quickly became one of the most dangerous teams in the American Association.
After splitting the first two games of the month, Lincoln won six in a row and moved into a tie for first-place. That win streak included a stretch where Schuler had five straight days where he saved games, and they were just getting started. The Saltdogs won 4 of 5 from the 12-16, but five straight losses quickly eliminated a 2.5 game lead and turned it into a 1 game deficit. It looked like these ‘Dogs may have been caged. Not for long however. The Saltdogs won 7 of the next 9, clinching the division title and punching their post-season ticket. Ian Gac was the primary catalyst of the late-season run, blasting 7 home runs in the last 13 games of the season with 18 runs scored and 19 RBI.
The late-season run showed that Lincoln can win in a variety of ways, and that they can win in any situation. They finished the season 20-12 in August/September, giving them a 54-46 record overall. They were 26-23 on the road this season and 28-23 at home. They hit .270 against lefties and .278 against righties.
Their bullpen proved to be very effective and a leading reason of why they won this division. The teams was 40-4 when leading after six and finished 18-14 in one-run games. They know how to win the close games, and to maintain leads once they get them.
The Saltdogs proved this season that these ‘Dogs know how to chase after what they want and get it. They won this division with quality enough pitching, a solid bullpen and timely hitting. They have earned this division title, and despite being 2-5 against Winnipeg this season, those loses came early in the year, and so they really don’t matter now. The Saltdogs have the bite to now go with their bark.
Player of the Year: Ian Gac. Gac was an All-Star this season and with good reason. He hit .349 and led the league with 27 home runs. He also added 63 runs and 77 RBI. He proved what a dangerous hitter he is with that hot streak to end the season, and should play a pivotal role for the team in the playoffs.
Pitcher of the Year: Marquis Fleming. While Schuler played a major role in the team’s success, starter Marquis Fleming was the biggest difference maker. Fleming was 10-3 on the year, but the team won 13 of his 19 starts. He was 10th in the league in ERA and finished with a shutout and a complete game.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA