The Hannibal Hoots are no longer on the 10-game winning streak that stretched from late June through the Fourth of July.
But as a result of the upswing, a Prospect League playoff spot is within reach.
The Hoots have won 12 of their past 16 games to move to within four games of second place in the West Division after starting the summer 4-17. The top two squads in each division advance to the postseason in August.
“It's crazy to think that about 25 percent through the season we were almost eliminated from the playoffs and now we're hunting for a spot here,” said Hannibal outfielder Patrick Donohue. “We've got the guys to do it. We can be the last seed, it doesn't matter, because we've got guys who can do some damage.”
Hannibal saw its lengthy streak end with a loss to Danville on July 5. Since then, the Hoots beat Quincy and split a two-game set with Kokomo before dropping two straight contests to the Gems this week.
With a 16-21 record entering a doubleheader at Danville on Thursday, Hannibal has much to play for over the final 23 games of the regular season.
The upward trend changed the narrative of the entire season.
“We were feeling invincible there for a little while,” said Hoots two-way standout Dylan Dodd. “We've just got to go one game at a time right now. And heck, we could start another streak if we wanted to.”
Jonny Steiner has logged scoreless appearances in six different victories for Hannibal this season.
The Lindenwood University-Belleville reliever has struck out 22 batters in 13 innings while holding opponents to a .159 average and 0.90 WHIP.
“Jonny usually allows the first hitter of the inning to reach, but after that it's lockdown mode,” said Hannibal manager Clayton Hicks. “Boom, boom, boom, here you go.”
Steiner has been battling arm fatigue in recent weeks, but that hasn't kept him from taking the mound.
“He wants to keep fighting,” Hicks said. “He's the ultimate team guy. He is one of our big leaders, and it's really nice to see Jonny have success for all the work he's put in.”
DeCello provides spark
Daunte DeCello provided the Hoots a significant reinforcement June 30 in the midst of the surge.
The University of Indiana Southeast freshman was a late signee offering another option on the infield, particularly at shortstop and second base.
The sparkplug has proved plenty serviceable at the plate with a .320 batting average, four RBIs and five stolen bases during his first 10 games with the club.
“Daunte finds a way and has been a help here of late,” Hicks said. “He's a competitive kid who gives us some depth and has been a big addition.”
Team ERA fourth in league
The Hoots entered Thursday with a team ERA of 4.54, good for fourth in the league and second in the division behind Danville.
“Our guys consistently give us a chance,” Hicks said. “They have really bought into what we preach about attacking hitters and making them beat you. Whenever your pitching is doing well, you've got to attribute it to the catchers too. Sam Nozicka, Zak Whalin and Brady West have had a strong hand in that.”
Nielsen done for summer
Michael Nielsen received a medical release from the Hoots. The Quincy University slugger started the summer on the disabled list and was limited to 10 games. He is recovering from a hip flexor injury.