LIMA – There were plenty of handshakes to go around the Lima Locos’ infield seconds after the final out.
But, overall, the celebration was subdued, as this team is aiming for much more.
The Locos clinched the regular-season championship of the Great Lakes Collegiate League with a 6-3 victory over Lexington Friday at Simmons Field.
With the GLCL title, the Locos earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and a bye to the GLCL best-of-three semifinals, which will open Wednesday on the road.
“That was obviously one of our goals coming into the summer and we’ve achieved it,” Locos coach Chad Ehrnsberger said. “We’ve achieved it. And as I told the guys, it’s nice, but it’s not what we came here for. What’s important is next week (the playoffs).”
The Locos are 26-13. Lexington is 11-24.
Since starting the year 10-10, the Locos are 16-3.
The Locos wrap up the regular season against Lexington at 7 tonight at Simmons Field.
“This is not the end goal tonight, but it’s a good step and a good confidence booster for going into the playoffs,” Locos outfielder Matt Furuto said.
For the Locos, D.J. Smith went 2 for 5, while Matt Spruill was 2 for 4.
Dan Sexton (3-0) picked up the win for the Locos. The lefty from Tiffin went six innings and gave up one run, earned, on five hits. He struck out five and walked three. Sexton used his fastball, breaking ball and change-up and threw 84 pitches, 51 for strikes.
“It wasn’t my best start, but it was one of my best ones,” Sexton said. “The change-up was working, and it was my best pitch. … My coach at Tiffin told me go there (to Lima) and throw there like you did here and you’ll be fine.”
Ehrnsberger said, “To me, he’s (Sexton) the pitcher of the year in the league. This isn’t different than what I’ve seen all summer.”
The Locos jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Matt Furuto singled and Kyle Lewis was hit by a pitch. Daniel Garner delivered an RBI single and the Locos took a 1-0 lead. Dylan Ingram followed with an RBI single to give him a league-leading 34 RBIs. Brett Carlson’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
It also marked the end for Lexington starting pitcher Colten Cleary, who was injured in delivering a pitch to the plate.
The Locos added two runs in the home fourth to push the lead to 5-0. Lewis’ RBI single to deep short made it 4-0.
Lexington head coach Nick Signaigo was ejected in the bottom of the second inning for arguing a play at first when the Locos’ Kyle Lewis was called safe on a grounder to third when Lexington first baseman Michael Bollmer was ruled he pulled his foot off the bag. After Signaigo was given the heave-go, he ran over to first and kicked a pile of dirt on first base while the crowd was whipped into a frenzy.
The Locos led 6-0 after five, while Lexington scored one run in the sixth, one in the seventh and one in the eighth to get within 6-3. Josh Bynum had an RBI double in the eighth to bring Lexington within 6-3.
Cory Wilder, one of the team’s top starters, threw the final two innings, giving up one run on three hits. He struck out four.
Ehrnsberger said whether he starts Wilder or Sexton in Game 1 of the playoffs will depend on the matchup.
“We have a couple of different scenarios based on who we play. We won’t know until Tuesday night,” Ehrnsberger said.
Locos notes: Locos infielder Matt Spruill (Purdue) returned to action Thursday at Hamilton. He had been out since he was hit in the head with a pitch at Grand Lake on July 19.
Locos outfielder Jonathan Herkins (Cal-Irvine) left Thursday’s game at Hamilton after crashing into the outfield fence. He missed Friday’s game with an injured hand/wrist.
Locos catcher Mason George was hit with a warmup pitch in the ribs and left the game late.
The Locos wrap up the regular season at 7 tonight against Lexington at Simmons Field.
The Locos, having clinched the No. 1 seed, will get a bye and advance to the best-of-three semifinals. Game 1 will be on the road Wednesday, with Game 2 and Game 3, if necessary, back at Simmons Field on Thursday and Friday. The GLCL championship best-of-three series will open next Saturday.
The Locos lead the GLCL in runs with 213 (5.6 runs-per-game). They also lead the league in RBIs (183), rank second in home runs (18) and third in doubles (70). The Locos lead the league in pitching with a 3.11 ERA.
The Locos went 10-8 in the month of June. The Locos are 16-5 in July.