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Williams assesses Cutters at halfway point

July 22, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
Shawn Williams believes his Williamsport Crosscutters team is better than a .500 team. But that's right where his team has hovered for much of the 2014 New York-Penn League season.

Today starts the official second half of the season as the Crosscutters have no played 38 games following Tuesday's (win/loss) against Batavia. And Williams, in his first year as a minor league manager, believes that by the end of the season the Cutters' record will better reflect how good the team is.

“So far, I think we've had a solid season,” Williams said following batting practice Tuesday at Bowman Field. “We've had some really good stretches, but things happen over the course of a season and you know you're not always going to be great.”

Williamsport entered last night's series opener against Batavia one game under .500, a mark which didn't seem fitting considering the amount of early-round drafted talent on the team. The Cutters sport nine players drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round or higher in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, and that doesn't include six-figure signings out of Latin America like Deivi Grullon and Jiandido Tromp.

But a 2-8 stretch over its last 10 games has only hampered the progress the team had made after winning five in a row before its road trip to New York over the weekend. But Williams didn't call the 1-5 road trip a set back. In fact, he said it was a learning experience for a team with 15 first-year professionals.

“It's all about dealing with the day-to-day routine,” Williams said. “Stretches like this happen even to really good teams. But if you're a good team, it's about whether you come out of this or not, and I think we definitely will.”

Williamsport's offense has struggled mightily during its most recent 10-game stretch. The Cutters have averaged just 3.1 runs per game during the streak, as opposed to the 6.4 it was averaging in the midst of its five-game winning streak against Auburn, Mahoning Valley and Vermont.

A team which was either first or second in the league hitting with a .272 batting average at the tail end of that winning streak, is now sixth in the league with a .254 team batting average. Part of the problem could be it has played two of the four best pitching teams in the NYPL over the weekend.

Outfielder Cord Sandberg's batting averaged has fallen from .316 on July 3 to a season-low .246, and he's been moved out of the leadoff spot. Prior to last night, Sandberg had gone 23 at-bats without a hit. His last hit came July 12 against Tri-City when he singled in the third inning.

Since then, Sandberg is 0 for 23 with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Jiandido Tromp, who still leads the team with seven home runs, has seen his batting average dip to .264. In fact, only Derek Campbell had a batting average at .300 or better prior to last night's game.

“Maybe some of the guys that started off really well aren't doing as well, but they will help us again by the end of the season,” Williams said. “We have other guys who can help pick it up. Maybe it hasn't collectively happened in the last week or week and a half. But I know with the kind of team we have, we're going to get it going.”

Through all of the struggles of the last week and a half, the Cutters are by no means out of any playoff races. They're still only eight games behind State College in the Pinckney Division, and it's a State College team which has won better than 70 percent of its games this year. Translate the Spikes' .703 winning percentage to a 162-game schedule, and it would mean nearly 114 wins, which is a nearly unsustainable pace.

And despite being one game under .500 entering Tuesday night, the Cutters were also only two games behind Staten Island in the race for the NYPL's wild card spot.

“I think we're better than a .500 team, and I think we will be by the end of the season,” Williams said. “There's still a long way to go. There's a lot of games to be won.”


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