The Quad Cities River Bandits got off to a very tough start this season, going 2-10 in their first 12 games. They were outscored 63-32 during that stretch. In their next ten game they nearly reversed those numbers entirely, going 8-2 and scoring 40 runs to their opponents’ 21.
Their worst game was on opening day back on April 7 when they lost 12-4 to the Cedar Rapids Kernels. They were held to five hits, and committed five errors. The Kernels pounded out 15 hits against four different Bandits’ pitchers. Their best day of the season was when they swept both games of a double-header against the South Bend Cubs on April 28. They won the first game 11-2 and the second game 3-0, and committed no errors in either game.
Needless to say there has been a drastic improvement in almost every aspect of their game.
Dexture McCall hit his first home run in the second game of that April 28 double-header. McCall’s season has mirrored the Bandits’ season so far. He started out 2 for 24 in his first six games and was struggling so much that Bandits’ Manager Omar Lopez finally benched him for two games. Since then he is 15 for 37 with 5 doubles and a home run.
McCall credited hitting coach Joel Chimelis for the turn around.
“He’s been on me every day,” McCall said. “He’s always there when I have questions so I give all the props to him. Without him being on top of me things wouldn’t be going as well.”
When asked what his change in approach was, McCall said “Mentally, trying to stay up the middle of the field, not pulling off balls, getting a good pitch to hit. All those things have been very key.”
Infielder Brooks Marlow is another player who has been on a hot streak after getting off to a slow start. He recently went through a six game stretch where he went 12 for 25.
“I think the only adjustment I made was in slowing the game down. I feel like I had been rushing and everything,” Marlow said.
“When you slow the game down, things come to you a lot easier and it makes the game a lot easier.”
Marlow felt the team was playing tight at the beginning of the season.
“I think when we first got here it was kind of a press where we had to do this, had to do that. Now we’re looser, and we’re just having fun,” Marlow said. “That’s part of the game and when you do that, good things come.”
One stat that seems to back up the idea they were pressing or playing tight is errors. The Bandits’ first win didn’t come until the sixth game of the season, which was also the first where they did not commit an error. The Bandits are 8-0 in games where they do not commit an error, and 2-12 in games where they commit at least one error.
The pitching staff has also turned things around. The have held opponents to three or fewer runs in 9 of the last 10 games. Matt Bower is one reason why. He has pitched 17.1 innings, and has a 2.08 ERA with 24 strikeouts against only 3 walks.
Rogelio Armenteros had similar numbers with the Bandits – 18 innings, 20 strikouts and 3 walks with a 1.93 ERA – before being promoted to the Lancaster Jethawks.
The challenge now for the Bandits is to sustain this kind of play over the remaining four months of the season. Most of the Bandits’ players played short-season rookie league last year. This will be the longest season they have played so far in their careers.
When asked how he hopes to endure the longer season, McCall said “Our strength and conditioning coach Joe [Bossard] is always on top of us. We lift 2-3 times per week. If you don’t stay in shape and keep your strength during this season, you’re not going to last.”
Marlow also mentioned workouts as being important to having the longevity needed to last the season.
“Just taking it day by day, trying to stay healthy. Working out when we have team workouts. Trying to stay healthy and the game will solve itself,” Marlow said.
The May schedule will be a tough test for the Bandits. There are 30 games scheduled – 18 road games and 12 home games. After the double-header at home Sunday, they must travel to Michigan to play the Great Lakes Loons on Monday night. That game starts a difficult stretch where 17 of their next 23 games are on the road. They have off days scheduled for May 8 and 16. After that, June 6 is their only other off day scheduled until the Midwest League All Star break starts on June 20.