Locos pull away from Leprechauns, clinch playoff berth

LIMA — For the first four innings, the Lima Locos struggled to get base hits.

And when the Locos did get runners on base, the Royal Oak (Michigan) Leprechauns managed to shut the door.

In the first four innings Sunday night, the Locos stranded seven baserunners. For the game, Lima left a total of 12 runners on base.

Then it happened.

In the home half of the fifth inning, Eduarny Martinez (Faulkner University) blasted a two-run home run over the left field fence to give the Locos a 3-1 lead over the Leprechauns.

The Leprechauns would knot the game 3-3 in the sixth.

However, the Locos pulled away in the final three frames for a 9-3 victory in a Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League baseball game at Simmons Field.

With the win, the Locos have clinched a spot for the postseason playoffs, which start the week of July 24-29. Brackets will be determined later.

The Locos came into Sunday’s game sitting in second place behind Muskegon in the North Division of the GLSCL with a 22-8 record.

With Sunday’s win against Royal Oak, the Locos are 23-8. Royal Oak falls to 12-19 on the season.

Locos head coach Chad Ehrnsberger said Martinez can change the complexion of the game with one swing of the bat. On the night, Martinez was 3 for 4 with three RBI.

“He (Martinez) has that ability. And when he goes up (to the plate) with the right mindset, he hits the ball hard, every time,” Ehrnsberger said. “There are times when he tries to do too much and tries to lift the ball. That’s when he gets in trouble.

“Even the home run he hit today – it was just a solid hit. I tell these guys, ‘Home runs are miss-hits. You shouldn’t go up there trying to hit home runs. … Just go up there and try to hit the ball hard; and if you get under it a little bit, it turns into a home run.’ He’s been on fire the past few games. Hopefully, that continues.”

After the Leprechauns tied it up at 3 apiece, the Locos got their bats going. In the bottom of the seventh, Aidyn Coffey (Wabash Valley), the third baseman, had a single that drove in two runs to give the Locos a 5-3 lead. Coffey went 2 for 4 on the night.

“I’m so happy for Aidyn (Coffey),” Ehrnsberger said. “He has struggled bigtime the whole summer, up until about a week ago. We could see it in batting practice. There was one day at batting practice, where all of us coaches just looked at each other. … He looks completely different today. He’s been hitting the ball hard, and getting hits, lately. It’s a credit to him. He could have just turned it in and given up on the summer. But he worked hard. I‘m glad to see the success that he has had.”

In the home half of the eighth, the Locos put the game away.

Hudson Parker (Texas Tech), the Locos’ catcher Sunday, hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Parker went 2 for 3 at the plate Sunday night.

“Huddy (Parker), we knew he could hit; and we knew he could catch, coming in,” Ehrnsberger said. “Obviously, I brought him in here (to Lima) as a pitcher, but also knowing he was going to do some catching and getting some ABs (at-bats). When he has gotten a chance to hit, he’s done really well. I have three really good catchers. So, it’s hard to get any of them the number of at-bats that they deserve. It’s a good problem to have when you have too many good players, to put them into the lineup.”

The Locos received two solid pitching efforts against Royal Oak.

Reese Bassinger (Tarleton State) got the starting nod on the mound for the Locos.

Bassinger worked five innings. The junior right-hander struck out five, while allowing one run on four base hits. He threw 59 pitches.

Alex Figueroa (Chochise) came in to work the final four innings for the Locos.

Figueroa had a rough start in his first inning of work, allowing a home run on his very first pitch to the lead-off hitter of the inning, Lincolnview product Collin Overholt (Ashland).

However, Figueroa settled down the rest of the way. For the game, the right-handed sidearm pitcher scattered five hits, while striking out eight batters.

Ehrnsberger felt like Bassinger was in complete control Sunday.

“He (Bassinger) was getting ahead on about everybody,” Ehrnsberger said. “I wish he weren’t on an innings count this summer (from his college coach). He would be throwing more for us, but I understand all that. That’s why we took him out. His pitch count was down, but we wanted to make sure we saved him for the playoffs.”

Ehrnsberger was impressed at how Figueroa settled down after his rough start on Sunday.

“That was quite a shock – after the first three or four hitters,” Ehrnsberger said. “But I think it was a wakeup call for him. It got him in tune with what he had to do. He made it look easy the last three innings. It was definitely good to see.”

Even though the Locos have clinched a playoff berth, Ehrnsberger does not plan to change the routine a great deal.

“To me, it’s all the same. Every time you step on the field, you should try to win, and give it all you got,” Ehrnsberger said. “I’m going to make sure that the players understand that, and hopefully they continue that.

“But really, what it’s all about is staying healthy and trying to set up your pitching rotation the way you want for the playoffs. So, we’re going to see what we need to do to make that happen. We’ll make a plan, and hopefully we will execute it.”

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