The Potomac Cannons offense has improved over its first-half performance, and all-star Andy Bevins is a big reason why.

Bevins, who often handles the designated hitter role for Potomac, leads the Cannons in almost every offensive category this season. Despite being held to four hits--two by Bevins--in the first two games of last week's series at Myrtle Beach, the Cannons had raised their team batting average by eight points going into Friday's game.

"The top two guys in our order are really getting on a lot now," said Bevins, referring to leadoff hitter Rob Macrory and No. 2 hitter Jack Wilson. "It makes it easier for the 3, 4 and 5 guys to drive them in. Hitting is a lot more contagious when guys get on base."

Bevins signed with the Cardinals out of San Diego State University in 1997. He played last season with the Class A New Jersey Cardinals of the short-season New York/Penn League.

The Cannons hit a league-worst .234 in the first half but have raised that to .242 in the first 24 games of the second half. Through Friday's game, Bevins is third in the Carolina League in home runs (18), second in RBI (67) and tied for second in slugging percentage (.533).

The Cannons' pitching staff continues to struggle with a league-worst 4.73 earned run average, and no pitcher is in the top 10 in ERA. But on Tuesday, Finley Woodward belied those numbers, striking out 12 and allowing no earned runs in the Cannons' 2-1 loss to Myrtle Beach. Potomac this season rarely has combined a strong pitching performance with a lot of runs at the plate, and Manager Joe Cunningham knows it.

"We just can't seem to put them both together on the same night," Cunningham said.

That has forced Cunningham to take a bit more of an aggressive managerial approach than last season, giving the green light to steal bases and putting on the hit and run whenever he can. And as the Cannons try to forget their first half--the worst first half in team history--Bevins and the rest of the top of the lineup will need to come up big for Cunningham.

"With this club, instead of watching for things to happen, we have to make things happen," he said. "But you have to have the right guys up to do that, and that isn't always the case."

Snead Still Leads in Steals

Esix Snead might be long gone from the Carolina League, but he is still making his presence known. Snead, the speedy Cannons center fielder who was demoted to mid-level Class A Peoria of the Midwest League earlier this month, still has a firm hold on the Carolina League lead in steals. Snead, who stole 35 bases in the first half of Potomac's season, leads the closest competitor, Scott Pratt of Kinston, by two stolen bases.

Hey, I Wanna Go Home

Potomac's extended road trip has not done wonders for its place in the Carolina League standings. The Cannons had lost six of their last seven games through Friday night's game. They started the road trip getting swept by Kinston, and dropped three out of four games in the Myrtle Beach series.

But what has hurt more is that in three of the losses, the opponent has won in its last at-bat.

Last Sunday, the Cannons lost to Kinston on a Taber Maier error in the bottom of the ninth. On Monday, Kinston slugger Dustan Mohr lit up Cannons closer Jason Marr for a grand slam that won the game for the Indians, and on Tuesday, Mark Mortimer had the game-winning single for Myrtle Beach off reliever Kevin Sheredy.