LIMA – The past week, the Locos have started to find their rhythm.
The Locos came into Monday’s game against visiting Grand Lake with a 5-game winning streak on the line and were sitting two games behind Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League-leader Cincinnati.
Against Grand Lake, the Locos pounded 12 base hits and received a solid pitching performance from starter Jake Steffens, en route to a 7-4 win at Simmons Field.
For most of the game, the Locos shut the Mariners down.
By the end of the sixth inning, the Locos had built a seemingly commanding 7-0 lead.
However, in the top of the ninth, Grand Lake rallied for four runs against Locos reliever James Naile.
With the victory, the Locos (16-10) extend their winning streak to six games. Grand Lake slips to 11-15.
For Lima, D.J. Smith and Kyle Lewis each had three hits and two RBIs against the Mariners. Brett Carlson and Jonathan Herkins each had two hits for the Locos.
“The last six games in a row, we’ve actually come out and the bats have shown up,” Locos head coach Chad Ehrnsberger said. “They say that hitting is contagious. That’s basically what’s going on. I hope it continues.
“Obviously, the hitting has been doing well. The pitching has been good all year. Defense has been spotty. As long as they make the routine plays, I can’t be upset with them.”
Steffens was efficient on the mound for the Locos. The tall right-hander from Santa Clara worked seven shutout innings before giving way to Ben Hudspeth in the eighth.
Steffens scattered four hits, while striking out seven and walking one. He threw just 72 pitches in his seven innings of work. Hudspeth worked just the eighth inning before Naile came in to take over.
“I knew he could do that,” Ehrnsberger said about Steffens’ performance. “He threw so many pitches in the spring that I wanted to start him out in the bullpen and try to keep him fresher until we got closer to the playoffs. So, he got the start tonight and now he’ll be off for the next 10 days or so, with the all-star break coming up.”
The Locos got on the scoreboard first. In the home half of the fourth inning, Lima scored three runs on three hits.
Carlson led off the fourth with a single to left. Jalen Washington then hit a fly ball to deep centerfield that scored Carlson from third base. Chase Puente followed Carlson with a walk. Jonathan Herkins followed Puente with an infield single to load the bases.
A ground ball by Matt Spruill brought Puente in from third, making the score 2-0.
The Locos kept the rally going in the fourth, when Smith lined a shot down the left field line for a double, scoring Spruill from first base, pushing the Locos’ lead to 3-0.
In the fifth, the Locos added another run to extend its lead to 4-0. Lewis led off with a single. Then with Garner at the plate, Grand Lake starting pitcher Todd Goldberg threw a wild pitch, allowing Lewis to go all the way to third base. Mariners catcher Spencer Dull then overthrew third baseman Zack Reboulet, allowing Lewis to score.
In the sixth, the Locos scored three more runs on three hits to round out its scoring. Lewis had the big hit for the Locos, a single to left that plated two runs. Smith had an RBI single to account for the other Lima run.
In the top of the ninth, Grand Lake scored four runs to cut the final deficit to three runs. Tristan Mercadel had a single that plated two runs for the Mariners.
Todd Goldberg worked five innings before giving way to J.J. Buckey in the sixth. Goldberg was tabbed for four runs (two earned) on seven hits, while striking out three and walking three.
Despite playing a long stretch of games, Ehrnsberger feels good about the depth of his pitching staff.
“I’m not worried about pitchers at all. Actually, I’m more worried about getting guys innings. We have enough quality arms that I can’t give them as many innings as they deserve,” he said.
The Locos will be at home the next three nights, starting tonight, as they host Southern Ohio all three games. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.