TERRE HAUTE —
During a 7-1 start and franchise-best seven-game winning streak, Terre Haute Rex pitching was the catalyst. Through eight games, the Rex led the Prospect League with an earned-run average of 1.11.
Even after giving up 10 runs Friday night in a 10-6 loss to the Quincy Gems, the Rex (7-2) are still the league leader in ERA at 2.09.
Opponents in the West Division are batting just .201 with 58 hits in 82 innings against Rex pitching.
The Rex have been stronger in the second half the past few seasons, but it’s been a team effort on the mound so far in putting the team atop the standings.
Left-handers Michaelangelo Guzman and Kyle Zimmerman have allowed just one earned run apiece in two starts, and Taylor Krugh has allowed zero earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. Indiana State right-hander Kurt Kudrecki has a 0.84 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11 innings for the Rex.
Manager Ronnie Prettyman has been happy with the results so far. He plans to employ a six-man rotation all summer, and each man in that rotation will have a chance to throw one inning of game action between starts. Many times, coaches will just have starters throw a bullpen session between starts without facing a live batter.
“We play so many games. … We’ll come out and throw an inning, maybe even two if the pitches are low,” Krugh said. “I like that. It keeps you in the game more. Instead of just sitting back, throwing a bullpen [session] where you’re maybe not as focused.”
Prettyman also limited Kudrecki, who was a reliever for Indiana State, to 71 pitches and kept the other starters at a maximum of about 90 pitches as well. He doesn’t plan to allow any of his pitchers to rack up 120 pitches in a start.
“Our biggest thing is not abusing the arms. That’s the goal, get them one start a week and one relief appearance a week, not string them out too long during the starts,” Prettyman said. “And that makes sure our guys in the bullpen, who are doing an awesome job, get a chance to come in and do what they do.”
Prettyman believes that can be a strong selling point to college coaches as he and general manager Casey DeGroote attempt to bring top-notch talent to Terre Haute.
Prettyman hasn’t yet settled on that starting rotation. Guzman has drawn interest from Major League teams recently, and Valparaiso right-handers Ben Mahar and Trevor Haas just joined the team late this week.
“We’re just trying right now to see everybody pitch, see what they’re made of in tough spots. Right now, it’s been rolling for the pitchers. They’re just really dealing, they’re doing their job.”
Relivers such as Terre Haute North graduates and southpaws John Robert Patterson and Bryan Nacke have been outstanding as well.
Patterson and Nacke have yet to allow an earned run, combining to allow just three hits while collecting nine strikeouts in 10 innings.
• Wampler atop league hitters — The Rex offense has been no slouch either, with West Vigo product Tyler Wampler — a senior-to-be at Indiana State — leading the Prospect League with a .419 batting average after collecting his 13th hit in his ninth game Friday night in front of 1,095 fans.
Kyle Kempf and Wampler have been mainstays in the top two spots in the Rex lineup, with Kempf ranking fourth in the league in with a .394 average. The leadoff man is also 4-for-4 in stolen-base attempts.