News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Terre Haute Rex

July 6, 2010

Halfway through season, Rex in contention for Prospect League’s Central Division title

TERRE HAUTE — All of the Terre Haute Rex players are enrolled in college, so they fully understand the concept of mid-term exams — as applied to their academics.

In baseball parlance, the Prospect League All-Star break serves as a type of mid-term exam, a measuring stick for the team.

So how are the Rex doing at the mid-point of their inaugural season?

What kind of grade should the team receive?

“If I had to give us a grade now, at least we’re improving toward where we can be in the ‘B’ range,” Rex manager Brian Dorsett said recently.

“I’m not ready to give us an ‘A’ yet,” he said, smiling. “But I think we’re getting better and that the key is for us to put it together all the time. That’s the thing about baseball … that it is difficult.”

Dorsett obviously thinks highly of his team. His assessment was offered while his team was in the midst of a downturn, a season-long four-game losing streak — including a disappointing 0-3 homestand — the last week of June.

The Rex showed their resiliency by winning three of their next four games, but  revisited an all-too-often nightmare in a disappointing conclusion to the first half of the season.

On Sunday, the Rex lost a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, falling 3-2 on the road to Dubois County, the last-place team in the Central Division. With the loss, the Rex sport a 14-15 record entering the All-Star break.

Their nemesis all season has been an inability to win close games in a consistent fashion. The Rex have been involved in extremely close encounters in 18 of their first 29 games, but have won just five of those 18 games.

A breakdown of that 5-13 record finds the Rex are 2-4 in extra inning games, 1-6 in games decided in a team’s last at bat and 2-3 in all other one-run games.

Offense

The Rex have been a good hitting team this year, despite lacking in home run power and team speed.

The Rex rank third in the 15-team Prospect League with a batting average of .274. They lead the league in hits (280), are tied for first in being hit by a pitch (32), second in doubles (43), third in runs scored (147), third in runs batted in (119), and fourth in bases on balls (131).

Conversely, the Rex are tied for eighth in home runs with just five. Jase Morgan has three of their five home runs. Morgan is tied for fourth in the league, even though missing a few games due to an ailing Achilles tendon. The Rex rank 14th in stolen bases (29) and have been caught stealing 12 times.

Alex Guthrie leads the Rex with a .324 batting average, followed closely by Kyle Burnam (.322) and Nolan Earley (.315). Earley leads the team in runs scored with 21, while Morgan’s 23 RBI are ranked third in the league.

“Execution-wise offensively we’re getting better,” Dorsett noted. “Still got to get some bunts down, missing the hit-and-run … we’re missing some opportunities in those kind of situations.”

Guthrie and Morgan represented the Rex position players in the Prospect League All-Star game at Quincy, Ill., on Tuesday.

Pitching

The Rex rank fourth in the Prospect League with a respectable 3.55 earned run average.

Clayton Hicks and Alex Sachs lead a solid starting rotation. Hicks is 4-0 in six starts with a 2.41 ERA, while Sachs is 2-0 in six starts with a 3.00 ERA. Hicks, the third Rex player selected for the All-Star game, is tied for second in the league with his four wins. Sachs is tied for fifth in strikeouts with 33.

On the plus side, Rex pitchers have allowed just 230 hits in 266 innings, their opponents being limited to a .228 batting average. On the negative side, Rex pitchers have issued 128 walks.

The Rex bullpen sports a 4-10 record with just five saves. But to be fair to the bullpen, the offense has been lacking late in many of the down-to-the-wire games. The Rex have scored three runs or less in half of their 18 “close” defeats.

“We’ve had great starting pitching all year … that’s been a wonderful thing,” Dorsett stated. “I think we’ve come in and done the job out of the bullpen most times as well. Defensively we’re getting better.”

Second half outlook

The Rex finished the first half two games behind the Danville Dans, the Central Division leader. Richmond (one game behind) and Nashville (one and a half games behind) also finished ahead of the fourth-place Rex.

The second-half title chase begins for the Rex on Thursday.

Division winners of each half will play to determine who qualifies for the three-team, two-game, one-day playoffs in Chillicothe, Ohio. If Danville would win the second-half title, the team with the next best overall record would be their opponent.

The Rex open the second half with four straight divisional games, hosting Richmond on Thursday, then playing a three-game series against Danville on Friday (road), Saturday (road) and Sunday (home).

“Our division is definitely winnable,” Dorsett predicted. “I like our chances. I feel like we’re going to continue to get better.”

After a lengthy college season and playing 29 games in a span of a just 32 days in the first half of the season, Rex players welcomed the three-day All-Star break. Beginning Thursday, it’s back to the grind, playing 27 games in 32 days to finish the regular season.

“The All-Star break comes at the right time,” Dorsett said. “It’s going to give these guys a chance to heal up a bit … nice little break for us. They’ve not been used to playing every day like this. That’s part of the adjustment you make when you come out of college and in summer leagues like this … it’s a grind on your body.

“I love our team. These guys are battlers. I love the fact they are good kids,” Dorsett paused, then said, “They’re good young men I should say.”

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