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Tom Usher: Locos pushed through crazy season


August 23. 2013 3:56AM
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It was a wacky summer for the Lima Locos.


Players came and left almost on a daily basis.


There were 12 injuries and 26 player transactions. Two players signed pro contracts and the closer headed off to the Cape Cod League.


Through it all, the Locos continued to move forward. The went 22-16 for the regular season, then ended up advancing to the Great Lakes Collegiate League championship series before falling 2-0 in the best of 3 series to Licking County.


Here are a few final memories of the year:


Record setter: Left fielder Tyler Grogg set a GLCL record with 41 stolen bases. He was 41 of 44 on his steal attempts. He also had Locos’ records of most steals in a game (6) and most hit by pitch (13).


Top battler: Right-hander Keaton Baker stuck around after severely spraining his ankle in July and returned to pitch while his ankle was healing. He ended up going 3-1 with a 1.78. He also came up with a big start on three-days rest in Game 2 of the championship series.


Late-night performer: Aaron McRee threw six innings of one-hit relief to close out the 14-inning Game 3 victory against Southern Ohio in the semifinal series.


Clutch hit: Cody Strong delivered an RBI single to right to give the Locos a 5-4 lead in the top of the 14th of Game 3 against Southern Ohio in the semifinal series.


Clutch performers: Matt Furuto (.320, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs), Matt Britton (.316), Casey Schroeder (.308, 3 doubles, 4 RBIs) and Jose Cruz (.273) led the way in the six playoff games. Furuto had an on-base percentage of .452.


Mr. Turnaround: Center fielder A.J. Flores was hitting .160 after the month of June. He finished at .333 and played the best defensive center field in the league.


Top defenders: Flores was steady in center. Shortstop Shawn Sanders was good during the year, then played at an exceptional level in the playoffs. He routinely threw runners out deep in the hole. Jess Posey also had a good playoff run at third base. Schroeder had a strong, accurate arm behind the plate.


Tape-measure shot: Zack Fields connected on a home run at Ohio University’s Bob Wren Stadium that was estimated at about 410 feet. It easily cleared the 30-foot high netting above the fence in left field.


Mr. Everything: Right-hander Tyler Murphy performed every role on the staff and did it well, including making his first start since high school when he started in the quarterfinal playoff game against Dayton. He threw six innings and gave up one unearned run on three hits.


Most dramatic hit: Furuto’s walk-off RBI single to end the 15-inning, 12-11 regular-season game against Southern Ohio.


Who’s your brother?: Early in the year, there was plenty of chatter about Jess Posey being the brother of N.L. MVP Buster Posey. But by the time Jess Posey hit his home run in the championship series and made play after play at third base, few were talking about who his brother was.


Best late signing: With 10 days to go, and needing pitching, the Locos signed Purdue’s Connor Slavich. He gave the club three outstanding starts, including one in Game 3 of the semifinals against Southern Ohio.


Thanks to UNOH: Before this year, the Locos had only one UNOH player in Cesar Loiz. This year they had four with right fielder Cruz, catcher Jose Gonzalez and pitchers Ruben Medina and Engel Diaz. All four contributed, with Cruz being a big key down the stretch. Medina made a quality start in Game 1 of the championship series.


Manager of the Year: No one deserved the GLCL manager of the year more than Locos coach Chad Ehrnsberger. Because of injuries to starters, his pitching staff was reliever heavy most of the year. But he continued to come up with creative ways to get through every nine-inning game with the right mix of pitchers. The team relied heavily on pitching and defense, but by the end of the year, it had led the wood-bat league in hitting at .261. The team didn’t have the most talent, but found ways to win. It also didn’t pack up early after losing Game 1 of the best of 3 semifinals to Southern Ohio, 16-1. Instead, it went to Athens and won the next two games to advance to the championship series.





Tom Usher


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