SOUTH BEND, IN - The South Bend Cubs became the first team to win a series over the Great Lakes Loons since the beginning of June with tonight's dominant 12-6 victory in the final matchup of the three-game series.
Tyler Payne, who's plane from Eugene landed less than two hours before the game, started at catcher and went 3-4 with a walk and two runs scored while Luis Ayala, who hit behind Payne in the lineup, carried the offense with four RBI.
WHAT HAPPENED: Joe Martarano helped the Cubs get on the board first with a single and good base running to score from second on Luis Ayala's single.
South Bend then had a bases loaded situation with two outs, but Vimael Machin's hard hit ball back up the middle ricocheted the Loons pitcher who picked the ball up and made a fantastic play to throw out Machin at first and keep the Cubs to a one run lead.
In the third inning, the Loons tied the game 1-1 after Gavin Lux' one-out walk was followed by Brendon Davis' RBI-double.
Adonis Paula and Tyler Payne both hit singles in the bottom of the fourth to put two runners on with no outs. Ayala then grounded out on a close play at first but Paula scored and the Cubs pulled ahead 2-1.
Great Lakes then came back with two singles in the top of the fifth and Gavin Lux picked up his second walk of the game prompting a mound visit from Cubs Pitching Coach Brian Lawrence. After the mound visit, Cubs starter, Dylan Cease struck out Brendon Davis but then gave up two runs on Cody Thomas' single and the Loons took a 3-2 lead.
Jared Cheek came in to relieve Cease of the pitching duties with one out in the top of the fifth and immediately struck out Carlos Rincon for the second out of the inning. Cheek then induced a routine groundball to second base, but the ball got through the legs of Austin Upshaw allowing two unearned runs to score.
With the score 5-2 in bottom of the sixth, Payne, Ayala and Caro all singled to load the bases with no outs. Then the baseball god's seemed to make sure the game evened out in the end as Vimael Machin's groundball then got through the legs of Loons first baseman, Cristian Santana and the Cubs scored two runs to make it a 5-4 ballgame.
Likewise, Austin Upshaw made up for his error in the fifth inning by following with a RBI-single to score Caro from third and tie the game 5-5.
From there the Cubs offense exploded for seven more runs on four hits and two walks including Joe Martarano's surprise bunt single, a Tyler Payne walk in his fourth at-bat, and Vimael Machin's two-out RBI-double to give the Cubs a 12-5 lead.
While the Loons scored one run in the top of the eighth, it was not enough to overcome the Cubs' six run lead. With their 12-6 win, South Bend became the first team to beat the Loons in a series since the beginning of June.
AYALA STAYS HOT: Luis Ayala went 3-4 with two runs scored and four RBI in Thursday night's 12-6 win. Thanks to his hot bat, Ayala helped the South Bend score half of the Cubs' 12 total runs and was thus named player of the game.
STILL FINDING HIS GROOVE: Cease has not thrown more than five innings in any of the five games he has started since coming off the disabled list on June 11. In those five starts, Cease had only allowed three earned runs coming into tonight's ballgame.
Tonight Cease threw four and one-third innings allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits, the most he's given up all season, while striking out three and also giving up three walks. He was originally scheduled to pitch last night, but due to Duncan Robinson's promotion to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Cease was scratched and rescheduled for tonight's ballgame.
Cubs: South Bend will travel to Ohio to take on the Dayton Dragons in a four game series then return home to face Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids in six games of interdivisional play.
Loons: Great Lakes will travel to Bowling Green for a four game series before returning home for a six game home stand with games against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Beloit Snappers
Photo credit: Emma Reese
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.