The Hannibal Hoots experienced a high Wednesday, May 30 with a shutout victory on Opening Day at Clemens Field to begin their inaugural season in the Prospect League.
Those emotions flipped rapidly.
The club endured a four-game losing streak that bottomed out with a loss at Danville on Sunday.
Hannibal found itself in reverse with a record of 1-4 at the end of the first weekend.
“We did not have the start record-wise anybody would hope for, but we need to be patient,” Hannibal manager Clayton Hicks cautioned. “We do have talent but we're still trying to figure it out.”
The Hoots offense has since responded.
Hannibal won two straight games while plating 22 runs in the process.
The Hoots erupted for 11 runs in the seventh inning en route to a 15-2 victory over Springfield on Monday before securing a 7-3 win at Kokomo on Tuesday night.
By comparison, the Hoots scored just 10 runs combined during their recent stretch of four straight losses.
Hannibal leads the West Division with the fewest runs allowed over the first week of the season.
The Hoots have surrendered just 26 runs over 61 innings. Only 15 of those tallies have been earned for a league-best ERA of 2.21. The staff has issued just 14 walks compared to 66 strikeouts. Hannibal's WHIP of 1.03 is the lowest in the 11-team circuit.
Dylan Dodd won both of his starts so far, striking out 15 over 12 2/3 innings while allowing just two runs. Randall Coxwell was impressive in his first start Monday as he limited Springfield to one earned run over six innings.
Jonny Steiner and Richie Well have been reliable arms out of the bullpen. Steiner has thrown four scoreless innings while striking out nine, while Well hasn't allowed a run in his three innings of work.
Brendan Saak has performed well as a long reliever, permitting just two unearned runs over 6 2/3 innings.
“If pitching is any indication of the season to come, I think we'll be OK,” Hicks said.
What a start
Dodd is a dual threat stepping up to lead the Hoots.
The Kankakee Community College product led the league in batting average and earned run average entering Tuesday.
On top of being lights-out on the mound, the sophomore leads the club with a .526 batting average, six runs and six RBIs.
“Dylan is hitting the ball phenomenally right now,” Hicks said. “What he provides us on the mound and at the plate is unbelievable. He is about as hot as you can be at the plate. He's been huge for us.”
Next man up
Josh Lane was thrust into an everyday role at shortstop when Hoots starter Ethan Owens broke two bones in his hand on a hit by pitch Friday night.
Owens went home and isn't expected to return this season.
Lane has put together a four-game hitting streak since taking over at shortstop full-time.
“Josh has filled in great,” Hicks said. “He is going to be our everyday shortstop until he needs a day off. We'll miss Ethan, but it's nice knowing we had Josh ready to go.”
Lane is second on the team with three stolen bases.
“Josh brings speed,” Hicks said. “Within two or three pitches, he's probably going to be trying to steal second at some point.”
Zach Gibbs (Missouri State), Graham Kuck (Riverside CC) and Michael Nielsen (Quincy) are all expected to arrive in America's Hometown to join the club within the next week.
Gibbs and Kuck, both pitchers, just finished their college seasons, while infielder Nielsen was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
“Once we get those guys in, we're going to see a pretty consistent lineup that's tough to beat with the pitching we have,” Hicks said.
There's no question the Hoots prefer playing at home.
But this week's road trip — which sends the team to Chillicothe for two games before a tilt at Terre Haute on Friday — provides an opportunity for players to get to know each other.
Most of the roster first met on Memorial Day when the team held its initial meeting of the summer.
“Holes” was the movie of choice on the bus Tuesday on the way to Kokomo.
Hours later, the Hoots dug their way to a second consecutive win.
“We'll get these guys out on the road,” Hicks said. “They may end up being best friends by the time this is all said and done, or it could go the other way. I think the road trip will be good for us.”