SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Liners manager Mike Siwiec said early in the summer that the 2012 version of his team was different from previous Liners teams. The team settled in early in the season, he said, something that’s difficult for collegiate summer league teams comprised of mostly fresh faces.
The Liners’ winning ways began to tail off at the end of June, when they lost five of six, but they showed Thursday that the losing stretch is far in their rearview mirror.
Behind their second-best offensive performance of the season, the Liners won their fourth in five games at Sycamore Park, beating the second-place DuPage County Hounds, 16-6.
The Liners now are 21⁄2 games ahead of the Hounds in first place in the Midwest Collegiate League’s North Division.
Leadoff hitter Markus Duckworth led off the scoring in the first inning, when Erik Lockwood drove him in with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Two batters later, Christian Venditti hit his fourth home run of the season to drive in three more runs.
With Luke Harrison, the North Division’s leader in ERA, on the mound for the Liners, the Hounds never found a groove. Harrison struck out seven in seven innings.
Two more Liners runners crossed the plate in the second inning, when Lockwood and Joey Burney each drove in a runs to make the score 6-0.
DeKalb County continued to pile up runs, scoring two more in the third, when Brent Turner and Brian Estevez batted in a run apiece.
Harrison’s shutout bid ended in the fourth, when Duckworth dropped a fly ball with two outs in center field, allowing two unearned runs to score. The Hounds scored one more unearned run in the inning.
Harrison allowed only one earned run in seven innings. The Indiana sophomore has been dominant this season, allowing more than one run only twice in five starts. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs or pitched less than seven innings in his past four starts.
The Liners scored in six of the first seven innings, adding two more in the fifth and one in the sixth before adding four more in the seventh.
Nine different Liners drove in runs Thursday, and Estevez and Beau Wallace each had three hits.
The Liners now sit comfortably in first place, the latest they’ve held their league’s pole position in their three years of existence. They’ll host the Illinois Lincolns today before the last-place Rockford Foresters visit Saturday and Sunday.