FLORENCE, S.C. – The 2019 Florence RedWolves’ season was about two halves as much as it was about two streaks, first-year coach Ryan Vruggink said.
Namely a couple of five-game losing streaks in the first half that put the RedWolves behind from the start.
“We hit two rough stretches – and I think if we don’t do that, we’re in the hunt still to this day,” Vruggink said following Florence’s final home game of the season on Friday. “We’ve kind of got to learn from that and learn how to respond a little quicker to it whenever we get in those situations.”
The RedWolves went 12-13 in the second half to finish six games behind Southern Division champion Savannah (18-7), who also won the first half and finished 35-15 overall. Macon took the other postseason spot thanks to its overall record of 30-21. The two teams were scheduled to meet Sunday in the opening game of the Petitt Cup Playoffs.
That was too much ground for the RedWolves (22-29) to overcome thanks in no small part to a 10-16 record in the first-half that included the two losing streaks.
“The walks (by pitchers) and the (defensive) errors really kind of killed us early, but I think we did a much better job of eliminating those down the stretch,” Vruggink said. “It shows, because we started to play a lot better.
“But (untimely errors) are part of baseball, but they just happed too often and too much. We’ve just got to learn from it and that’s why those kids were out here.”
The RedWolves led the league in errors in the first half and wound up 14th out of 16 teams at the end with 93 errors. The pitching staff also made a significant improvement in terms of free passes as Florence wound up seventh in the league with 238 walks issued.
Parker White and Rashard Coleman led the starting staff with 53 innings between them. Coleman had a 2.25 ERA while White’s was 2.48.
White also led the team with 30 strikeouts followed closely by Robin Allen (29) and Duncan Callahan (26). Callahan was part of a solid bullpen that included Brett Manis and All-Star Connor Holden among others. Manis wound up leading the RedWolves with four wins out of the bullpen. Holden had three saves.
Offensively, the RedWolves hit .238 as a team with a .346 on-base percentage and a .340 slugging percentage.
Former South Carolina quarterback Brandon McIlwain established himself quickly in the second half and led Florence with a .364 batting average.
All-Star Eldrige Figueroa did a little bit of everything for the RedWolves, finishing with a .303 average, 20 RBI and a team-high 16 stolen bases.
Kenny Piper (23) and J.T. Weber (21) were the big run-producers this season along with Grey Epps (20). Mitch Barrow led the team with six home runs. Piper finished with five.
“I was really proud of the way we played in the second half,” Vruggink said. “We threw it a lot better in the second half, and I think we pieced together a much better offense as well top to bottom with guys grinding out at-bats.
“But it’s been a lot of fun this year. It was my first summer doing it, so I got to learn a lot, too. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”