MIDLAND, Mich. - The temperature at Dow Diamond dropped colder as the night progressed, but the Great Lakes Loons' offense was scorching hot by the middle innings. The offensive effort peaked during a three-run 5th inning that proved the difference in Great Lakes' 7-1 defeat of the West Michigan Whitecaps on Wednesday in Midland.
The victory improved the Loons to 7-4 overall, 2-3 at Dow Diamond and 4-1 against the Whitecaps this season.
"Knowing what they are throwing to you and making the adjustment is part of the game," said Loons manager Luis Matos. "No matter if it's in the 1st or 5th inning. We did a much better job of that tonight."
The Loons offensive onslaught in the 5th inning was ignited by right fielder Michael Ahmed's triple to lead off the inning with the game tied at a run apiece. Second baseman Jimmy Allen singled past West Michigan shortstop Garrett Mattlage to give Great Lakes its first lead of the game, 2-1. Following centerfielder John Mieses' double to left centerfield, Great Lakes catcher Julian Leon notched a base hit to push the Loons' lead to 3-1. Leon's second RBI of the game bounced West Michigan starting pitcher Jeff Thompson (0-2) out of the game, before he took the loss.
But, the Loons had more damage to do.
A Whitecaps wild pitch plated one more Loon run before West Michigan escaped the 5th inning trailing 4-1. Leon finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs driven in.
"I was seeing the ball good today," Leon said. "It was a really cold night and I made the adjustment. It went well."
Heading to the plate with his teammates on base ready to score gives Leon confidence, he said.
"My teammates … they pick me up and I pick them up too," Leon said. "It's good we got the win we've (got to) keep doing those same things."
The Loons added one more run in the bottom of the 6th inning on yet another wild pitch before right-handed relief pitcher Karch Kowalczyk entered the game in the top of the 7th inning and shut the door for Great Lakes.
Jose Molina (1-1) provided relief in the middle innings and picked up the win as he did not allow a run while giving up three hits in 2 1/3 innings of work.
Loons starting pitcher Brock Stewart tossed an efficient four innings surrendering just three hits and two walks while striking out five batters.
Great Lakes scored their first run of the game on Leon's two-out RBI single in the 3rd inning.
The game featured two weather delays, one lasting 18 minutes in the bottom of the 1st inning, and the other six minutes two innings later.
The Loons and Whitecaps will play the third and final game of the series at 2:05 p.m. on Thursday at Dow Diamond.
Great Lakes will send right-handed pitcher Grant Holmes to the mound. Holmes has yet to get a decision this year, giving up 10 hits and six earned runs during his two starts this season. In his last start against South Bend on April 18, Holmes pitched five innings and gave up two earned runs. Spencer Turnbull will get the start for the Whitecaps. The right-hander is 1-0 this season with an earned runs average of 3.27.
Thursday is a Chemical Bank $1 Family Feat Night at Dow Diamond. Hot Dogs, chips, ice cream sandwiches and 16 oz. Pepsi products will all be available for $1. You can hear the game on ESPN 100.9-FM and ESPN1009.com live from Dow Diamond.
The Great Lakes Loons are a ninth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and more information, call 989-837-BALL or visit loons.com.