By Joe Southern
The Sugar Land Skeeters dominated Lancaster and Long Island last week going 6-1 during the seven-game home stand and pushing their Atlantic League-leading second half record to 28-16.
The Skeeters hold a three-game lead over the York Revolution in the Freedom Division and at 63-51 are just two games behind the Revs in overall standings and gaining fast. Manager Gary Gaetti credits strong veteran leadership and good health to the team’s surging success.
“A lot of things have come together, mainly that I’ve got a healthy team,” he said. “I had some key players that were hurt right at the end of the first half and that didn’t help matters.”
Having outfielder Rene Tosoni back in the lineup and strong performances from Delwyn Young and Travis Scott, along with consistency from outfielder Jeremy Barfield have helped the Skeeters become a scoring machine. Last week the Skeeters outscored their opponents 41-18.
Gaetti said he likes what he sees in the team so far.
“The pitching’s been good. The defense still hasn’t been great but the offensive side has been a lot more consistent,” he said. “They keep fighting and I really like the character of the team. Now they feel like if we get behind early in the game they don’t feel like there’s any reason to panic, we feel like we can come back. A lot of things are going right.”
Skeeter of the Week
“Having Josh Prince lead off every day has been a big deal. He’s missed a little bit of time, being on the DL a couple times,” Gaetti said.
The second baseman hit .389 during the home stand and had a home run Sunday during the Skeeters 11-1 thrashing of the Long Island Ducks, earning him the Fort Bend Star’s Skeeter of the Week honors.
Gaetti lost pitcher Jake Hale with an arm injury but brought back Michael Nix, who was part of the Skeeters inaugural team five years ago and has played on and off with the team the last few years. Nix had a solid six-inning debut Sunday, only giving up one run on five hits with six strikeouts and a walk.
The return of Nix gives the Skeeters a powerful threat on the mound along with starters Sean Gallagher (7-7), Roy Merritt (8-2) and Aaron Thompson (8-3). Derrick Loop’s 26 saves are a Skeeters team record and is third best in the league.
“You’ve got table setters, you’ve got closers, you’ve got RBI guys and the starting pitching, everyone’s stepped up and done their job,” Gaetti said.
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, the Skeeters are in good position for post-season play. With a three-game lead in the second half the boys in blue play 14 of their last 20 games at home when they return from this week’s road trip.
“I like mine better than a few of the teams in this league,” Gaetti said when asked how he likes his chances of making the playoffs.
On Monday, Aug. 29, the Skeeters are offering $5 field box tickets. There are also $1 hot dogs and $2 margaritas every Monday.
On Friday, Sept. 2 the Skeeters host Ladies Night, which includes a special happy hour from 6-8 p.m., post-game fireworks and an exclusive series premier for the Fox series “Pitch.”
Sept. 3 is Salute2Fans Saturday with a post-game concert and Sunday is Bark in the Park.
In addition to picking up Michael Nix, the Skeeters saw one of their top performers leave.
“I lost one of my best players with Ricky Hague going back to college,” Gaetti said. “He played his last game Friday.”
Gaetti added that Hague might be able to return for weekend games.