Nearing the end of the first half of the Prospect League season, Quincy sits in the basement of the Western Division standings. But all has not been lost for the Gems this season.

Nearing the end of the first half of the Prospect League season, the Quincy Gems sit in the basement of the Western Division standings. An inconsistent offense, coupled with an underachieving bullpen, has led the Gems to a disappointing 8-18 mark heading into Thursday night’s contest with the Springfield Sliders.

But all has not been lost for the Gems this season.

Chevy Emken has rebounded nicely from a shaky start to the season. The John Wood product, who will be playing at Missouri Western State University in the fall, has turned into the ace of the Gems staff. Emken has posted back-to-back quality starts going six-plus innings in both games. He earned a no decision last week against the Terre Haute Rex, while earning the win Tuesday night against Lafayette.

For the season the right-hander has a respectable 2.91 earned run average, which is best on the team, in 24 ⅔ innings pitched. Emken has lowered his ERA in each of his last four outings after allowing three runs in just one inning of work in a loss to Danville on June 7.

“He has really been digging in and battling of late,” Gems co-head coach Adam Hightower said of his ace. “He has pitched some phenomenal games, which is good to see.”

If not for a shaky bullpen, Emken would have at least a 3-1 record on the season instead of 2-1. In his no decision against the Rex on June 21, the hurler left with a 3-2 lead after six efficient innings.

Despite all the problems in the 'pen, the Gems have found a closer in the form of Michael Starcevich.

The Eastern Illinois University product has a pair of saves and is second on the team with 27 punchouts in just 14 innings of work.

Starcevich has recorded at least three strikeouts in seven of his eight appearances this season including four in three straight games.

“He has always been our guy (closer),” Hightower said of Starcevich. “We just have be able to get to him more in those situations. He pounds the strike zone with two pitches (fastball and curveball) and he can put them both wherever he wants its. You can tell by his body language he has confidence in what he is doing and you just know he is going to do a good job.”

Since allowing three runs against the Rex in his season debut on June 6, Starcevich has lowered his ERA from 13.5 down to 6.14.

Even more impressive is the Gems stopper has only issued two walks on the season.

Alex Dorothy leads the team in punchouts with 28 and has pitched nearly five more innings than the flame-throwing Starcevich.

While Emken and Starcevich has supplied plenty of punches on the mound for the Gems, Dalton Schumer has been supplying the power at the dish.

The starting shortstop leads the team with six home runs on the season and has also driven in a team-high 26 runs.

His six long balls are good for fourth in the league, while his 26 RBIs are tops in the Prospect League. Schumer is also batting .309 on the year and has scored 22 runs, which is good for third in the league.

“He has been consistent for us all season,” Hightower mentioned of his middle-of-the-lineup slugger. “He has been the guy we turn to when we need a big hit and he has been able to come through more times than not.”

OTHER GEMS NOTES: Four former Gems players were selected last week in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft. Cam Sanders, whose father, Scott, was born in Hannibal and played seven MLB seasons in the 1990s, was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 18th round. Billy Oxford was selected by the New York Mets in the 27th round, while Tyler Adkison (32) and Troy Newell (33) were selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers, respectively...with 26 runs scored on the season, Bradley Harrison now leads the Prospect League in that department...former Quincy Notre Dame stalwart Joey Polak returned to the Gems lineup Tuesday night at Lafayette after being sidelined due to a hand injury. In two games against the Aviators this week, Polak went 3-for-9 at the plate. He is hitting .294 on the season.