In the top of the ninth inning Thursday at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio, the Great Lakes Loons found themselves down to their final strike, trailing by three, with the tying run in the on-deck circle. Jose Ramos launched a two-run homer, bringing Great Lakes within a run of the
In the top of the ninth inning Thursday at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio, the Great Lakes Loons found themselves down to their final strike, trailing by three, with the tying run in the on-deck circle. Jose Ramos launched a two-run homer, bringing Great Lakes within a run of the Lake County Captains, but with work to do.
The next batter was Imanol Vargas, representing the tying run, who again found the team down to its final strike. Vargas followed suit, smacking a solo shot to tie the game.
It took 11 innings, but the Loons completed the comeback, winning at Lake County, 5-4, to become the first team in the Midwest League to reach 60 wins. For the first time this season, Great Lakes has the best record in the league.
The Loons (60-39, 20-13 second half) scored first in the top of the first inning, with a Damon Keith solo home run. Keith was promoted from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday, and hits a home run in his first High-A at-bat. It is his 13th homer of the season, and it staked the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
Lake County (52-45, 17-14) made sure that lead did not last long. Joe Naranjo went deep in the bottom of the first inning, his 14th longball of the year, to even up the game at one.
The Captains, High-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians, used the longball to take the lead. Johnathan Rodriguez drove in himself and Naranjo with a two-run blast in the fourth frame, putting the home side ahead, 3-1.
Great Lakes, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ High-A partner, had another quality start from Nick Nastrini. The former UCLA righty allowed three runs, all earned, on four hits and two walks over his six innings of work. Nastrini picked up eight strikeouts, pushing his season total to 118.
The Captains added to their advantage in the eighth frame. After Braydon Fisher tossed a perfect seventh inning, he walked the first three batters in the eighth inning before giving way to Jacob Cantleberry. The Loons southpaw nearly got out of the frame without a run scoring, as he struck out the three batters he faced, but tossed a wild pitch to allow an inherited run to score.
The Loons began their ninth inning with a groundout and a strikeout against Davis Sharpe, who was previously 3-for-3 in save situations, but got his first blown save Thursday. Keith singled with two outs to prolong the inning before Ramos blasted his homer on a 2-2 count. For Ramos, it was his 16th round-tripper as a Loon and his 22nd of the season overall. Vargas’s longball also came on a 2-2 count, and was his 15th of the season, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth tied at four.
Ben Harris pitched the ninth for the Loons, and things got interesting after a pair of two-out walks, but he got out of the frame with no runs allowed and one strikeout.
The Loons were retired in order in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, the Loons intentionally walked Naranjo, who was not retired in the contest, reaching base all five times he came to the dish. The intentional walk paid off, as Ryan Sublette (W, 5-1) induced a double play ball, then struck out the final batter of the frame.
The 11th inning saw the Loons score the winning run, the only run they scored without a homer. Ismael Alcantara pinch-ran at second base as the Loons’ placed runner to begin the frame. He took off for third on a dropped third strike, and the throw to third base skipped past the bag and into foul ground, allowing Alcantara to score the unearned run. That gave the Loons a one-run advantage, 5-4, which turned out to be all they would need.
In the bottom of the frame, Sublette walked two batters with one out which, in combination with the placed runner, loaded the bases. He went on to strike out the final two Captains, totaling four punchouts in his two frames to secure the victory.
Great Lakes collected seven hits in the game, and two batters had a multi-hit game: Vargas (2-for-3 with a walk) and Keith (2-for-5).
The Loons take the advantage in the series, two games to one, and hold a 9-6 lead in the season series. The six-game set continues Friday night at Classic Park, with first pitch at 7:00 p.m. Great Lakes sends right-hander Carlos Duran (0-2, 3.18 ERA) to the mound, opposing Lake County lefty Doug Nikhazy (2-4, 3.31 ERA). The Loons On-Deck Circle, driven by Garber Chevrolet Midland, kicks off pregame coverage at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN 100.9-FM.
The Great Lakes Loons have been a Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers since the team’s inception in 2007. Dow Diamond serves as the team’s home and also houses the Michigan Baseball Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, and ESPN 100.9-FM. For tickets or information about the Loons, call 989-837-BALL or visit Loons.com.