Jun. 24—Chris Dawson knew his players were capable of impacting the game in a lot of areas this summer, but one aspect of the Joplin Outlaws has been head and shoulders above everyone else in the MINK League this summer:
His players like to run and team speed has been the undeniable strength of the team.
My first conversation with Dawson still resonates weeks later.
"I told our guys in our first team meeting that I was going to run us into outs," the first-year skipper said following his team's 4-3 season-opening victory over Des Moines on June 4. "That's on me sending (Ethan Ellis) from first to third, but I told them I was going to run them into outs and not apologize for it. We have some guys who can flat-out run."
While Ellis was cut down at third which prevented a run from scoring in that inning, the Outlaws (10-7) made it abundantly clear to opposing teams that they look to run wild on the base paths.
So far this season, Joplin has blown everyone out of the water in terms of base stealing. The Outlaws have collected a league-best 59 stolen bases and have only been caught eight times for a success rate of 88%.
And 13 different individuals have contributed to Joplin's base stealing clinic this summer. Nine of the 13 players have at least four or more thefts on the team, paced by University of Hawaii — Hilo infielder Lawson Faria with 12.
Logan Cline (Dordt University product), who has also been the Outlaws' top hitter (team-leading .400 average), is close behind with nine stolen bases. Drake Angeron (Fort Hays State) ranks third on the team with eight stolen bags.
How does those three individuals rank stacked up with the rest of the MINK?
Entering Wednesday night's action, Faria is by himself atop the MINK leaderboard in steals while Cline's tied for second and Angeron is just below at three.
Jeb Jenkins, Ethan Lopez, Brett Weimers, Brandon Ulmer, Jack Mettam and Ellis each have four stolen bases, which is tied for sixth in the circuit.
Joplin is also tied with the Nevada Griffons for a league-best 144 hits. The Outlaws lead the MINK in doubles (29), ranks second in average (.279) and OPS (.765) and places third in runs scored (108).
Cline leads the team with 12 runs driven in. The Cheyenne, Wyoming native owns a team-high 18 hits (three doubles, one triple and one home run) and has scored 11 runs.
The Outlaws pitching staff has compiled the league's third-lowest ERA at 3.66 with the second lowest WHIP of 1.29. Joplin pitchers are also missing bats at a proficient rate, racking up 137 strikeouts (third in MINK) while holding the opposition to a .268 average (also third in the league).
Standouts on the mound for the Outlaws are aplenty. Jack O'Brien, a Hawaii Pacific product, has fanned 17 batters and issued only two free passes in 13.1 innings of work while posting a minuscule 1.35 ERA.
Yet another hurler with Hawaii ties, Christian DeJesus has compiled a 1.69 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in four games.