MIDLAND, Mich. - The Great Lakes Loons watched an on-field celebration Wednesday and they'd still like to have one of their own before the regular season ends.
But it's not going to be easy.
The Loons lost 3-1 to Lake County before 4,077 fans at Dow Diamond, yet didn't lose ground in the Midwest League Eastern Division playoff race. But another team - Bowling Green - popped up in the chase for the postseason wildcard spot, which isn't a good omen for the Loons.
Meanwhile, Lake County clinched a playoff spot with the win and celebrated at the pitcher's mound after the final out was recorded in the bottom of the ninth.
"We still have some games to play," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "We just have to get our offense going somehow if want to make a run at this thing."
With five games left, the Loons trail Dayton (which lost to Lansing on Wednesday) by a half-game in the wildcard race. Bowling Green, which defeated South Bend, moved into a tie with the Loons and own the tiebreaker advantage thanks to a better overall record against the Loons - should it come to that.
The Loons and Lake County traded solo home runs Wednesday before the visiting Captains broke the deadlock with two runs in the sixth inning off of Great Lakes starter Scott Barlow.
Clint Frazier led off the inning with a double while Paul Hendrix followed with an infield single. Nellie Rodriguez then delivered the decisive blow, a double down the line in left, which scored two runs. And that was all the runs the Captains needed against a Loons offense that has scored only 11 runs in its last seven games.
Lake County starter Mitch Brown, who is unbeaten in the second half, pitched six strong innings and allowed just five hits while striking out seven. The Loons' lone run was provided by catcher Spencer Navin, who hit his first professional home run in the bottom of the second inning.
The Captains tied the game on Claudio Bautista's solo homer in the top of the fifth.
Barlow (6-7) took the loss for the Loons, who got four shutout innings from a bullpen trio of Kyle Hooper, Michael Johnson and Jordan Hershiser. The Loons struck out 15 Lake County batters, bringing their season total to a franchise-record 1,205.
The Loons and Captains will play the second game of their three-game series tomorrow night (7:05 p.m.). Left-hander Luis De Paula (1-2, 6.84 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Loons while righty Jordan Milbrath (3-12, 3.81) gets the call for Lake County.
Tomorrow will be the first of two Dueling Piano Nights at the ballpark. Featuring renowned entertainer Spanky Manaois, fans can make song requests throughout the evening. Thursday is also $1 Family Feast Night in which fans can enjoy $1 hot dogs, 16 oz. Pepsi products, ice cream sandwiches and chips all game long.
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.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.