Midland, MI - The Clinton LumberKings (9-16, 39-54) brought all three facets - offense, defense, and pitching - in a 5-0 shutout of the Great Lakes Loons (11-14, 45-50) Wednesday night at Dow Diamond.
Before Blake Holovach (5-3) took the mound for Clinton, the southpaw watched his offense plate two runs in the top of the first. Little did he know, that's all he would need.
Aaron Barbosa led off the game with a walk and moved to second on Lonnie Kauppila's single to center. Jack Reinheimer sacrificed the pair into scoring position and after Justin Seager walked to load the bases, Marcus Littlewood gave Clinton the lead for good with an RBI groundout to first.
Right-hander Zachary Bird (4-11) could've escaped allowing just one run, but Brett Thomas' grounder back to the mound skipped underneath Bird's glove for an error, giving Clinton a 2-0 lead.
Holovach retired the Loons in order in the home half of the first and got two additional runs of support in the second. Jeff Zimmerman opened the frame with a double high off the wall in right. Manager Scott Steinmann argued that the ball cleared the yellow line for a home run, but the call stood. Fortunately for the L'Kings, it didn't matter. Luis Caballero drilled a run-scoring double into the left-field corner, making it a 3-0 advantage. Barbosa then laid down a bunt single and after stealing second - his 16th stolen base in 16 attempts - Bird threw a wild pitch, scoring Caballero from third.
Staked with a 4-0 lead, Holovach breezed through six shutout innings. The 23-year-old allowed just four hits and one walk while punching out six batters. In the fourth, Joey Curletta doubled - the only Loon to reach second base - but he was quickly removed after being caught in a 1-5-6 fielder's choice rundown.
Aaron Brooks worked two scoreless innings and Emilio Pagan faced the minimum in the ninth to close out Clinton's sixth shutout win of the season. The L'Kings' last four shutout victories have all been by the same score, 5-0.
Barbosa (2-4, 2B, 2 R, BB, SB) and Kauppila (2-5, RBI, RS) led Clinton's offensive attack. Kauppila's two hits pushed the second baseman's batting average to .291. The Stanford product has hit safely in 13 of his last 17 starts, along with nine multi-hit games, four coming in his last five starts.
Holovach's third start resulted in his fifth win - first as a starter - and it was his third quality start.
The Loons' four hits matched a season-low given up by Clinton, which had been done five other times in nine-inning games. They've limited opponents to three hits two separate times in seven-inning affairs.
Great Lakes committed three errors defensively, giving Clinton two unearned runs. The Loons had committed just four errors over their previous 12 games, and still lead the Midwest League with a league-low 83 errors.
The LumberKings and Loons meet again Thursday night for game two of the series with first pitch set for 6:05 PM CT. Clinton will send right-hander Edwin Diaz (2-5, 3.58) to the mound against Loons right-hander Victor Arano (4-3, 3.88). The broadcast can be heard on WCCI 100.3 FM, wcciradio.com, and lumberkings.com.