LIMA — The Lima Locos made a huge statement in the first game of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League championship series by blowing out the Hamilton Joes, 10-0, at Simmons Field on Saturday night.
The Locos will try to go up two games when they travel to Hamilton on Sunday for the second game of the series at Foundation Field at 7:05 p.m.
“Game one is the most important especially when you start off at home,” Locos skipper Chad Ehrnsberger said. “It is a game that you need to win and the way our pitchers threw tonight was great. You can’t draw it up any better.”
Solid pitching was the key to the Locos victory as a trio of pitchers stymied the Hamilton batters.
Locos Brad Croy (Bowling Green), who recorded the win, went five innings and gave up just four hits while striking out four and walking two. The Ottawa-Glandorf product cruised through the first two innings but found himself in several tense situation in his final three innings of work.
Croy got plenty of defensive help with the a web gem from Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) in the third inning. With a runner on first and one out, Johnson made made a spectacular diving catch off the bat of Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League MVP Ben Spitznegal (North Carolina Greensboro) to rob him of extra base hits and keep the runner from advancing.
In the fourth the Joes’ Kyle Moore (Indiana State) opened up the inning with a triple. However Croy fanned the next two batters and induced a pop out for the third out to strand Moore at third. In the fifth inning, Hamilton loaded the bases with two outs with Moore, the clean-up hitter who had hit a triple the previous frame, up to bat. Moore laced a deep fly ball to center but Johnson hauled it in at the wall and the Loco faithful breathed a sigh of relief.
Croy admitted that he was a little anxious starting the first game of the GLSCL championships but said once he settled down he said he felt pretty good.
“I felt I was throwing pretty well today,” Croy said. “We were getting outs when we needed them and Jeremy Johnson making that diving play in the third inning was huge and then the relievers did a great job too.”
Not to be overshadowed was the dominating relief performance from Austin Cox who came in the sixth and promptly fanned the side. He continued where he left off in the sixth by fanning the first two batters in the seventh. He proceeded to record the next out and then pitched a perfect eighth to cap off his impressive outing.
Cox credits his catcher DayFran Ortiz (University of Northwestern Ohio) for calling a great game behind the plate.
“I was basically going off him (Ortiz) and executing what he was calling to the best of my ability,” Cox said. “With the defense we have I feel I can fill it up and let them do the work. When you are filling it up and knowing those guys have your back it makes it much easier.”
Cox said the win feels good but they still have work to do and they “cannot let up and keep their foot on the gas pedal.”
Ehrnsberger said at the start of the summer Cox struggled a little and they only saw glimpses of his potential but in the second half of the summer he has been nearly unhittable.
“This is what we have been seeing from him the last month or so and to me he is the best lefthander in the league and I think he showed that tonight,” Ehrnsberger said.
Eric Hepple (Central Florida) pitched the ninth and gave up one hit and struck out two.
Hamilton starter Darian Smith (Muskingum) took the loss after working six and two-third innings of work. Smith gave up five runs on six hits while striking out one and walking three.
The Locos offense appeared to be ready when they scored two runs in the first three innings but then the Lima bats were silenced until the seventh when they woke up and posted eight runs in the final two innings.
The Locos utilized small ball to score their first two runs.
Lead-off man Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) scored the Locos’ first run when he opened the first inning with an infield base hit. Johnson, who was moved to third on a ground out, came in to score when Kevin Woodall (Coastal Carolina) hit a squibber that initially bounced foul but hit the edge of the grass lining the infield and came back into fair territory for an infield single.
In the third inning the Locos tagged on another run. David Chabut (Kennesaw State) reached first on an error and then the Locos shortstop reached third after Johnson delivered a single on a perfectly executed hit-and-run. A groundout by Jared Nixon (Alabama-Birmingham) brought Chabut home to make the score 2-0.
The Locos broke open the game in the the seventh and eighth when they scored eight times in those two frames. The back-breaking blow came when Daino Deas II (Auburn) delivered a three-run double that reached the wall in the eighth.
For the game, Johnson was 3 for 4 with one run and one RBI and Deas was 2 for 4 with four RBI and two runs. As a team the Locos had 10 hits.
Ehrnsberger said the offense has been producing in the playoffs and this is a continuation of what the Locos are capable of doing.
“I thought Thursday night in Licking County was our best overall game of the summer and I think we improved on that tonight,” the Locos manager said. “The pitching. The defense. Scoring 10 runs. It doesn’t get much better than that.”