With less than 15 games to go in the Southern League’s regular season, Shelley Duncan and the Jackson Generals have accomplished a lot, but they still have bigger goals in mind. This is part three of a late-season look at the Generals’ personnel and the battlefield ahead.
HAMMERIN’ HERUM: JACKSON’S THIRD BASEMAN SETS LEAGUE-BEST HITTING STREAK IN 2018
Generals third baseman Marty Herum hurt himself on the basepaths on April 24th, and the subsequent DL stint lasted more than two months. When he returned, the sixth-year pro had a tough time getting traction, batting just .202 between June 28 and July 27. But Herum, an undrafted signee out of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, kept on paddling. You don’t get to Double-A from the NCAA’s Division III ranks without running a few rapids.
Herum went 2-for-3 in the Generals’ July 28 win at Montgomery, and he added another hit the next night. And the next night. And the night after that. The hits kept coming, singles and doubles against the Biscuits, the Tennessee Smokies, and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The former Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk got two more hits in the August 14 opener against Montgomery against home, tying teammate Ben DeLuzio for the team-high streak in 2018 at 14 straight games.
Entering August 15, a challenge faced Herum: The Generals were playing a double-header, and an added wrinkle would make it even tougher to continue the streak. First off, game two of the double-header was set be a seven-inning contest, meaning Herum wasn’t certain to get a third at-bat. Furthermore, the first “game” of the twin-bill was the resumption of a suspended game (from August 1) in the second inning, and Herum had already batted once in that contest without getting a hit. Because the statistics from the August 1 contest had not yet been finalized, a hitless performance through the rest of the resumed game would undo part of the streak. Like an evil baseball version of Chutes and Ladders, Herum’s hot-hitting span would be reduced to separate four-game and ten-game streaks in the scorebook. Herum had to hit safely in both contests in order to stay near the top of the league leaderboard.
When the suspended game was resumed, Herum, came to bat in the fourth inning with two outs, a man on first, and the game scoreless. Marty singled through the left side to keep the inning afloat, officially breaking the tie with DeLuzio and matching Birmingham’s Eloy Jimenez and Luis Alexander Basabe for the longest streak in the Southern League this season. The Generals ended up falling 4-0 to the Biscuits, and manager Shelley Duncan slotted Herum into the lineup in the fifth slot for game two, meaning Herum was only guaranteed two plate appearances to try and top all Southern League competitors in 2018.
In the nightcap, Herum led off the top of the second inning in a scoreless game.
On the second pitch from Montgomery’s Sam McWilliams, Herum helped himself to belt-high fastball, breaking the 0-0 tie with an opposite field home run over the 16-foot wall in right. The dinger was the 26-year-old’s first in almost four months, and it spurred Jackson to 5-1 victory while extending his hitting streak to a league-best 16 games.
Herum’s streak ended at 19 straight contests with a base hit. It’s the longest hitting streak in the Southern League since Jacksonville’s J.T. Riddle hit safely in 25 straight games in 2016. Part of the fun of Herum’s success has been the coverage of Herum’s streak by the fan-run Twitter account, @HowsMartyDoing. With 366 followers, the audience may be small at present, but the laughs run big. At any rate, it was awesome to see Herum find a groove in the latter part of the Second Half. Marty is batting over .300 in August, and his stick will be a critical component for Jackson if they want to succeed in the playoffs.