Locos win Central title
LIMA – It was a wild one at Simmons Field on Sunday.
But when the postgame fireworks were shot off, the Lima Locos were Central Division champions.
The Lima Locos scored three runs on a wild pitches, then hung on for an 8-7 Game 1 victory over Galion at Simmons Field.
The Locos then drilled three home runs to win the second game 8-3 to clinch the Central Division of the Great Lakes Collegiate League.
“This is amazing,” Locos first baseman Jack Barrie said. “This is great. This is incredible.’’
Added Locos catcher Stephen Dobbs, “It’s huge that we did it with a week to go and didn’t waste any time to get that first-round bye and go straight into the second round.’’
The first-place Locos (27-8) clinched the title after reducing the magic number to zero after the doubleheader sweep.
“It’s hard not to feel good about this team,” Locos coach Brian Garman said. “We’ve won a lot of games here (at Simmons). We hit that little two-game loss streak, but overall, you look at our record and we’ve won a lot of ballgames. It would be crazy for me to sit here and not have confidence in our players.’’
The Locos hold a seven-game lead over second-place Grand Lake (20-15) with only six regular-season games to play.
With the Central Division title, the Locos get a first-round bye in the playoffs and advance to the best-of-three semifinals.
“This time in the summer there are some teams backing off and losing a little steam and I think we’re right on track to be doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Garman said.
Locos right-hander Colin Gossard (Findlay/Bath) earned the win in the second game. He went 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on only two hits. He struck out five and walked two.
In the opener, Lima trailed 3-0 in the first, but scored four in the home fifth inning to pull ahead 6-3.
Two Locos’ runs in the fifth scored on wild pitches. It marked three runs the Locos pushed across the plate on wild pitches.
In the key fifth inning, Garrett Hodges doubled and scored from third on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3. Josh DeBacker scored from third on another wild pitch to give the Locos a 4-3 lead.
Josh Wooten’s two-run bloop single to left gave the Locos a 6-3 lead.
Lima tacked on two more in the home sixth to make it 8-3. Hodges walked and scored on DeBacker’s triple down the left-field line to make it 7-3. Jeddediah Fagg’s RBI single made it 8-3.
Galion made it exciting at the end with four runs in the seventh after a 45-minute rain delay.
Locos closer Taylor Wilkes came on to notch the save in the seventh by getting Jacob Hoover to ground out to short with runners at first and second.
Locos right-hander Chase Burks (Mercer) didn’t have his best stuff, but he continually battled out of big-time trouble to earn the win. He worked six innings and gave up three runs, all earned, on nine hits. He struck out five and walked two. Burks threw 92 pitches, 66 for strikes.
“Early I was leaving a few balls over the plate and it led to a few runs and I kicked myself in the butt,’’ Burks said. “I just had to settle in and start throwing all my pitches with more intent and just let it go.’’
In the fourth, he had the bases loaded with no outs, before getting a popout and two strikeouts to escape the jam.
“BG (Coach Brian Garman) came out there (to the mound) and told me to find something deep down to get out of this, so I kind of let myself go and I got out of it,” Burks said. “I geared up (in the fourth) and tried to throw the ball a little harder so I had some more bite on my curveball and had more giddy-up on my fastball.’’
Galion jumped off to a 3-0 lead in the first off Burks.
The Locos closed the gap to 3-1 in the second when DeBacker scored from third on a wild pitch.
Lima got within 3-2 in the home fourth. Jaxxon Fagg singled, went to second on a Terence Norman walk and came home on an RBI single to left by Jay Meuse.
In the second game of the night, the Locos scored one in the first, two in the second and three in the third to take a 6-0 lead.
Barrie went 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI. Dobbs went 2 for 4 with a double. Tyler Tolbert had two RBI.
Will Kilgore started the nightcap off by hammering the first pitch over the left-field fence for a home run to make it 1-0.
“Will taking that first pitch and I think we built off that,” Dobbs said. “We came out with a lot of energy. We’re playing well right now and having fun.’’
Tolbert was walked with the bags loaded in the second to make it 2-0. With the bases still loaded, Kilgore struck out looking.
Locos coach Brian Garman objected to the call and was ejected by the home plate umpire at that point.
Ross Adolph walked with the bases loaded to make it 3-0 in the second.
Jaxxon Fagg launched a monster home run to center to give the Locos a 4-0 lead in the third. After a steal of third by Terence Norman and a wild throw by the catcher, Norman scored to make it 5-0.
Tolbert’s RBI single made it 6-0.
Jack Barrie crushed a two-run home run well over the center-field fence to push the Locos lead to 8-0 in the fourth.
And Barrie’s contributions came with his mother in the crowd, who made the trip from Australia to Lima.
“She hasn’t seen me play in two years,” Barrie said. “I’ve got the home run ball to send back to Australia. It’s incredible. I’m glad she came.’’
Locos notes: Locos right-hander Tyler Jones (Dayton/Bellefontaine) has missed most of the year battling an illness. He’s begun to throw and could be activated on Tuesday. … Outfielder Parker Upton (Creighton) injured his hip and went home for the rest of the summer.
The Locos have a record of 23-5 against the Central Division. They stand 4-3 against the Southern Division.
Tyler Tolbert (Alabama-Birmingham) is eighth in the league in hitting at .366, second in stolen bases (18) and ninth in hits (41). … Garrett Hodges (Kennesaw State) ranks third in home runs (6), ninth in runs (28) and 10th in RBI (27). … Will Kilgore (Georgia State) is third in the league in doubles (12) and stands two from the Locos’ record of 14. He is also third in the GLCL in walks (28).
The Locos rank seventh in the league in hitting (.271). They are third in stolen bases (58). … The pitching staff leads the lead in ERA at 3.11.
Next up: The Locos are on the road Tuesday at Licking County. The Locos next home game is at 7 p.m. Thursday against Richmond.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.