Locos rally to beat Jet Box

Somewhere Tom Usher is smiling.

In a game that honored the late Lima News reporter who was inducted into the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League Hall of Fame earlier in the season and had covered the Locos since their inception in 1987, Lima produced a 12-4 come-from-behind win Saturday night against Jet Box.

With the win the Locos, winners of their last six of seven, improve to 12-4 on the year. Jet Box dips to 2-11 for the year.

Even though the score indicates a blowout, the Locos found themselves down 4-0 after two innings and it remained that way until the bottom of the fifth when the Locos exploded for five runs and that ignited the offense which would go on to score two in the sixth, four in the seventh and one in the eighth to complete the offensive outburst.

Lima skipper Chad Ehrnsberger said it all came down to approach.

“In the bottom of the fifth I challenged the guys,” Ehrnsberger said. “I may have had a few choice words and I basically told them they are better than this and that they have been getting themselves out the first four innings and reminded them to change their approach and have a plan when they got in the box and you saw the difference.

“I told them after the game that they didn’t become better hitters in the fifth inning they became smarter hitters and that is what it takes some time.”

Locos second baseman Landon Underhill provided the key single in the fifth that brought home the tying and go-ahead runs. For the game Underhill finished 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and a run. Teammate Cade Bilyeu went 2 for 5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI as he also drove in two runs in the fifth.

Underhill, who is 10 for 21 in his last six games, echoed Ehrnsberger sentiment about the team’s approach and readjusting to kickstart the offense. The Texan who plays for McLennan Community College had 11 RBI in those six games and two hits in four of those contests.

“I just think we stuck to our approach and put the ball in play and good things happen when you do that,” said Underhill. “We have really good talent and I just think we were getting ourselves out but when we have a good approach and sticking to that approach good things happen.

Underhill added he has been having a lot of fun and enjoys playing in Lima and attributes some of that to the success of the squad.

“I just think it is guys coming in each day and doing their job,” Underhill said. “We have a lot of guys that love baseball and love to compete and we are just trying to win. We know we have talent and we are backed up by the fans and the fans are really great so we want to try to do it for them, especially with a crowd like this (300 in attendance). We are trying to win games and it is fun when everyone is doing their job, and we can win some ballgames.”

The Locos lashed out 10 hits on the night. Connor had 2 RBI for the Locos and Jake Porter and Jacob Rumfield, Aidyn Coffey and Mason Sawyer, who had a triple, all drove in runs.

While the offense found its footing, the Locos once again got excellent relief pitching to shut down the Jet Box offense. Lima starter Garit Krupp struggled early, lasting one and a third inning, giving up four runs on two hits. Reliever Jacob Pruitt came in and quelled the Jet Box bats.

Pruitt, who picked up the win, tossed 5 and one-third innings of one-hit ball while fanning six and walking three. The Indiana State product’s fastball continually hit in the low 90s and mixed in his breaking stuff to keep the Jet Box batters off-balanced.

Max McEwen fired the last two frames, giving up one hit while walking two and striking out three.

“Pruitt is dominate and came out there and saved us,” Ehrnsberger said “He threw five and third innings of shutout ball and they didn’t even threaten to score and we knew he would do that and that is why we went to him second. We knew that he would keep us in the game and the offense came alive and they did.”

The strong pitching has been aided tremendously by the Locos’ defense. Early in the season, it was somewhat shaky but as of late the team has curtailed its fielding miscues and against Jet Box had no errors. Conversely, Jet Box had two errors that were instrumental in the Locos’ scoring rallies.

“The defense is awesome,” Ehrnsberger said. “I am excited about our team defense. We struggled the first couple of games, and I think there were some things in play there. Guys are getting comfortable out there and making great plays and not just good plays.”

Ehrnsberger pointed to the defensive play of Coffey who he said has been phenomenal and despite Coffey’s struggles at the plate has not let that affect his glove work.

The Locos travel Sunday to Michigan to take on Jet Box and then return home for Tuesday and Wednesday games against the Richmond Jazz.

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Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.