LIMA — Locos right-hander Keaton Baker is riding the comeback trail.
Baker had an elbow injury at Middle Tennessee this spring and was limited to two innings.
Baker took a huge step in his recovery process Thursday night.
Baker threw five shutout innings and his defense played outstanding behind him in the Locos’ 2-1 victory over the Hamilton Joes at Simmons Field.
“It was a great job by Keaton Baker,” Locos coach Chad Ehrnsberger said. “To get five innings out of him, while on a pitch count, is huge. … He earned that win, it’s that simple. He went out there and gutted it out that fifth inning. It was good to see.”
The Locos won their third straight and stand 7-5. Hamilton is 6-7.
Baker used his fastball and slider effectively for five innings, giving up no runs on two hits. He struck out three and walked three. Baker threw 65 pitches, 38 for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of his 19 batters.
“It was fastball, slider and try to mix in a change-up every once in a while,” Baker said. “I started to get a little worn out in the fifth inning. This spring I injured my arm and only threw two innings. I hurt my elbow my first start so I’m gradually working my way back. Hopefully, by the end of the summer I can get where Aron (McRee) was last night, throwing eight innings.”
From there, Dylan Lee threw 2 1/3 innings and gave up one unearned run on two hits. Tyler Murphy got the final two outs in the eighth and handed it off to closer Justin McCalvin in the ninth.
“Dylan’s been doing that for us all summer,” Ehrnsberger said. “So it wasn’t a surprise when he came in and dominated the way he did.”
Bradley Macciocchi led off the ninth with a single and was bunted over to second. Adam Collins lifted a popup into shallow right field, but Locos second baseman Cody Strong went back and made the over-the-shoulder catch in right field.
McCalvin then struck out Michael Gastrich to end it. It was McCalvin’s second save of the year.
“J-Mac’s was the best pitcher in the league last year,” Ehrnsberger said.
There was plenty of defense all the way around the Locos’ infield.
Locos catcher Casey Schroeder threw out Collins trying to steal third after he had led off with a double in the fifth. First baseman Andrew Dennis made a nice grab over the railing down the first-base line.
And probably the best play came on a third-to-second-to-first double play started by third baseman Seth Bancroft on a wild-hop bouncer in the fourth. Strong made the turn at second.
“I put my glove there, I kind of saw it and got lucky,” Bancroft said. “That’s how baseball is. It felt good.”
Ehrnsberger said, “We do have a great defense and sometimes that goes unnoticed.”
The Locos took a 1-0 lead in the third when Alex Liquori singled, stole second and came home on an RBI double down the right-field line by Schroeder.
The Locos made it 2-0 when Tyler Grogg hit an infield single to deep short with Strong on third. Joes shortstop Luke Wurzelbacher threw to third on the play to try to get Strong. But when third baseman Curtis Olvey’s throw got away, Strong scored it make it 2-0.
Shawn Sanders played his usual steady shortstop and had a triple.
Grogg had a hit and stole his 14th base of the year.
Locos notes: The Locos signed Elida product Mackenzie Hampshire after he worked out and took batting practice prior to the game. He was in uniform for Thursday’s game. Hampshire hit .385 for Ashland this year. … The Locos are at Hamilton today and return home for a 7 p.m. game Saturday against Lexington.