MIDLAND, Mich. - When visiting Kane County struck for three quick runs Sunday against the Great Lakes Loons, Jesmuel Valentin had an immediate response.
And he - and his teammates - kept on responding.
Valentin's leadoff triple in the first led to a run which, in this case, was the equivalent of a fighter getting off the canvas and becoming the aggressor. He would have two more hits leading off innings, and four in all, as the Loons rolled to a 9-5 win over the Cougars before 4,462 fans at Dow Diamond.
The win was the third in a row for the Loons (13-15 in the second half), and second straight over Kane County - the Midwest League's best team virtually all season.
"I talked with our hitting coach (Johnny Washington) before the game and he told me to stay positive and change my approach," said Valentin, who'd had several hard hit balls caught in recent games. "That's what we're trying to do as a team - just be patient and stick with the approach we've had all season."
Paul Hoenecke also had four hits for the Loons, who finished with 15 hits total. Josmar Cordero belted his eighth home run of the season, a two-run shot to deep left centerfield in the third inning.
Kane County, which struck out 15 times against Loons pitching Saturday night, came out swinging Sunday. Loons starter Scott Barlow gave up back-to-back doubles to Shawon Dunston Jr. and Ben Carhart in the first, and then surrendered a long home run by Jacob Rogers to right field which hit the video board on one hop.
But Barlow, who earned his fourth win, followed with four scoreless innings in which he gave up only two hits.
"He didn't have his good stuff early and it took him awhile to get comfortable," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "But, give him credit, because he really battled out there. I probably could have let him go another inning but I went with the feeling in my gut, which was to take him out. And with our bullpen, that's not a hard decision."
The Loons took the lead by scoring four runs in the fourth inning off of Cougars starter Tyler Skulina. Valentin led off with a single and scored on a one-out double by Joey Curletta. Hoenecke followed with a game-tying double, before Cordero launched his home run over the Chemical Bank sign in left center.
Great Lakes scored two more runs in the seventh on a single by Hoenecke and a safety squeeze bunt by Brandon Trinkwon. And they added another pair in the eighth on an RBI double by Valentin and a single by Santana.
Kane County scored two runs off of Loons reliever Victor Araujo in the ninth, but Araujo fanned David Bote with two runners on and two out to close out the win.
The Loons and Cougars will conclude their series with a matinee (12:05 p.m.) game at Dow Diamond. Right-hander Zachary Bird (4-11, 4.18 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Loons, while the Cougars will counter with Daury Torrez (9-4, 2.81). Torrez is tied with West Michigan's Buck Farmer for the league lead in wins.
Tomorrow is Social Media Monday at the ballpark, but post-game activities will feature the U.S. Men's National Slowpitch Softball team. The National squad will play two games - one against local challenger Wallace Landscaping, the other against the U.S. Men's Slowpitch Futures team. Players and coaches of the National team will be available to the media both prior and after the games.
The Great Lakes Loons are an eighth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and more information, call 989-837-BALL or visit loons.com.