The Biloxi Shuckers stumbled through some stagnant play early in the second half of the season, but the addition of a handful of players have brought new life to the roster.
Right-handed started starting pitcher Luis Ortiz has been outstanding in his first four starts with the team and outfielder Clint Coulter continues to make an impact each game at the plate. Also, Dustin Demuth has given the team a lift at first base through 22 games in Biloxi.
Ortiz has made four starts for the Shuckers and has yet to give up an earned run in 17.1 innings with a record of 2-0. He has yet to issue a walk while striking out 11 batters.
Ortiz was acquired this season by the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade that sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Texas Rangers. Ortiz was rated as the top pitching prospect in the Rangers' organization prior to his trade. The Sanger, Calif., native was a first-round selection in the MLB Draft by the Rangers in 2014.
Ortiz split time this year between Single-A and Double-A in the Rangers' organization and his numbers have improved significantly since joining the Shuckers. At Double-A Frisco (Texas), Ortiz was 1-4 with a 4.08 ERA in seven appearances.
The arrival of Coulter and Demuth was badly needed for a Shuckers team that ranks last in the Southern League with a team batting average of .235.
Coulter continues to be the top bat for the Shuckers, reaching base in each of the last 13 games prior to Tuesday's home game against the Mississippi Braves. He has played in 16 games with the Shuckers and has a .392 batting average. He also has a pair of homers and seven RBIs with 12 runs scored.
Coulter entered the 2016 season as the eighth-best prospect in the Brewers' organization and he'll likely keep climbing the ladder after showing significant improvement at Double-A. He has was batting .220 in 87 games at Class A Brevard County (Fla).
Demuth is batting .298 at Biloxi since making the jump from Brevard County on July 26. He has yet to homer in Biloxi but has three doubles and a pair of triples.
Demuth, a former Indiana standing, has knocked in five runs and knocked in 11 RBIs. He was batting .287 with six homers and 43 RBIs for Brevard County prior to his promotion.
Shuckers right-handed reliever Stephen Kohlscheen picked up his 20th save of the season in his 22nd opportunity Monday night in a 2-1 win over the Mississippi Braves.
Shuckers pitchers have combined for a whopping 46 saves this season, including 16 by Jaye Chapman, who is now with the Southern League rival Montgomery Biscuits in the Tampa Bay organization.
Kohlscheen needs just one more save to set the Biloxi record for saves in a season. Damien Magnifico, who made his Major League debut with the Brewers last week, saved 20 games last year.
Kohlscheen, 27, is 2-3 with a 2.35 ERA in 45 appearances this season.
Improvement at the plate
The Shuckers scored 28 runs over the five-game series at Mobile with an average of 5.6 runs a game. The team averaged just 2.4 runs a game over the previous seven games and is averaging 3.4 runs overall.
On the upswing
Shortstop Angel Ortega has at least one hit in five of the last six games and is batting .375 over that stretch with a pair of doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. Ortega is batting .288 in August, raising his batting average from .191 to .223.