After starting the season 0-8, the Erie SeaWolves continued their torrid weekend by defeating the Altoona Curve 8-2 for their second consecutive win since Friday's rainout.
"We've been pitching great and playing defense great, and now the bats are coming alive," Shawn Roof said. "We're a lot more relaxed and are letting our abilities take over."
After scoring just 10 runs against Trenton and Binghamton over the first two series of the season, the Erie offense has since collected 19 anyway they can in the three games since against Altoona (7-4).
Manager Phil Nevin put his brand of baseball on display in the fifth inning. The SeaWolves worked counts --forcing three walks-- and reeked havoc on the base paths to manufacture three runs and take a 5-1 lead.
"I like to stay aggressive on the bases. I like that brand," Nevin said. "I could never run as a player, so I like having guys who can."
Cale Iorg led off the inning with a walk and then stole second before Jeff Kunkel followed with another walk. After Roof reached first to load the bases on a misplayed bunt to Curve pitcher Justin Wilson, Iorg scored on a fielder's choice by Andy Dirks.
Wilson Ramirez then brought Kunkel home on a line drive to center. After Ramirez was caught stealing second, Roof took home on the throw.
"I love this style of play," Iorg said. "If you can run, you got to run."
Nevin's brand of baseball puts him in direct contrast with Erie teams of the past.
"Phil definitely lets us run a little more and put pressure on the defense," Iorg said. "That's not to say Tom didn't, but we have a little bit more of a green light."
Under former manager Tom Brookens, who is now the first base coach for the Detroit Tigers, the 2009 SeaWolves, which led the Eastern League with 162 home runs, were often reliant on the long ball to score runs and seldom took chances on the bases. They stole just 78 bases as a team, ranking eighth in the league.
That's not to say the team will go completely without the home run. Iorg broke out of a 1-for-24 slump with a two-run homer in the sixth inning to put Erie up 7-1.
"My swing has felt good, I just haven't been getting hits," Iorg said.
The game was also an important step for 2009 second round draft pick Andy Oliver. In just his second professional start after being drafted out of Oklahoma State last season, the lefty threw six innings, allowed one run on one hit, while striking out three and walking two.
"I felt pretty good after the first inning," Oliver said. "I was able to settle down and throw some strikes after that."
Oliver started out rocky in the early going, struggling to settle in during the first two innings, but following a visit to the mound from catcher Jeff Kunkel in the third inning, he was able to settle down and retire the next nine batters he faced in order on 31 pitches.
"He told me to settle down and go through your motion and settle down, just go through your motion and let your arm catch up," Oliver said.
In his first start against Binghamton April 12, Oliver was knocked out of the game after allowing six runs over 3 2/3 innings.
In that game, Oliver felt that his slider wasn't working for him and that he was rushing through his delivery. He had no such problems Sunday.
"It was good. I got on top of it and it had some depth today," Oliver said. "It's a lot better than it was."
Erie will try to win their third straight tomorrow against Bowie (9-2) with Jon Kibler (0-2, 1.64 ERA) on the mound. Steve Johnson (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will throw for the Baysox.