LIMA — Locos reliever Taylor Wilkes did it the hard way.
But it all worked out for the Locos in the end.
Wilkes walked the first batter in the ninth, then came back to retire the next three hitters for the save in a 6-5 Locos’ victory over Cincinnati on Saturday at Simmons Field.
Wilkes (Kennesaw State) took over in the ninth with a 6-5 lead. But he proceeded to walk the first hitter Alex Holdenbach.
Will Vogelgesang came in to run for Holdenbach and took second on a groundout to first by Hayden Senger.
Wilkes, who was operating out of the stretch after the walk, then struck out Roger Danison. Wilkes got Jace Mercer to fly out to left to end it.
“With Wilkes, I think he’s better out of the stretch,” Locos coach Brian Garman said. “He’s smoother and more fluid when he’s out of the stretch. … He came in and shut it down and threw really well after the first hitter.’’
Added Wilkes, “When somebody gets on, I really have to focus in. And I think I am more comfortable out of the stretch than the windup. Maybe next time I’ll come right out of the stretch and see what happens.’’
The Locos are in first place in the Central Division with a 10-3 record. Lima has won five in a row.
Cincinnati, which is first place in the Southern Division, is 8-5.
The Locos scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth to break up a 2-2 tie and took a 5-2 lead after six.
In the home sixth, Tyler Tobert singled and Will Robertson reached on a throwing error by the Steam third baseman.
Jack Barrie got on a two-base throwing error on a grounder to short to score Tolbert and Robertson.
That gave the Locos a 4-2 lead.
“I thought we did a nice job of putting the ball in play and making them make plays,” Garman said. … “I thought we capitalized on their mistakes and they obviously came at a crucial point in the game.’’
Josh DeBacker put down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Barrie and give the Locos a 5-2 lead in the sixth.
“That (the squeeze bunt) was a huge piece to the puzzle tonight, as far as us getting this win,” Garman said.
The Steam got within 5-3 with a run in the seventh.
Will Robertson launched a monster-shot solo home run to right in the seventh to give the Locos a 6-3 lead. The ball easily cleared the visitors’ bullpen behind the right-field fence.
“It was a left-handed pitcher and I just tried to stay back and hit something hard. And it happened to go out,” Robertson said. “It was a curve ball and it kind of hung out over the plate.’’
The Steam scored two unearned runs in the eighth on a wild throw to first by the Locos pitcher to get within 6-5.
The Locos took a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Will Kilgore led off with a walk and took third on a “hustle double” to right-center field by Tolbert. Robertson and Barrie both had RBI groundouts to give the Locos a 2-0 lead.
Tolbert (Alabama-Birmingham) went 2 for 3 for the Locos. Robertson had a home run and two RBI.
The Steam tied the game at 2 with two in the fourth inning.
Right-hander Chase Burks (Mercer) started for the Locos. He breezed through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth.
Burks went 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs, both earned, on four hits. He struck out two and walked two. He threw 80 pitches, 55 for strikes.
“I thought Chase Burks had a great three (innings), then kind of hit a wall,” Garman said.
Joe Gahm (Auburn) came on for Burks in the fourth with the bases loaded and two outs and got Danison to ground out to first.
Gahm earned the win with 4 1/3 innings of relief. He gave up three runs, one earned, on three hits. Gahm struck out four and walked none.
“Joe Gahm out of the pen has been outstanding for us all year,” Garman said. “Every good team has a guy who can come in out of the pen and eat up innings for you and be really good at it. And that’s the role that Joe Gahm is in. He was strong and really good, but kind of ran out of gas.’’
Locos notes: Locos outfielder Ethan Hurt is eighth in the league in hitting with a .410 average. … Will Kilgore is second in runs (15), while Garrett Hodges is fourth in runs (14). Hodges is also third in home runs (3) and 11th in RBI (12). … Kilgore also ranks fourth in walks (14) and second in steals (7).
As a team, the Locos ranked eight out of 15 teams in batting average at .278. Cincinnati leads the GLCL at .303. The Locos lead the league in ERA at 2.70.
Up next: The Locos at are Cincinnati (Western Hills High School) at 7 p.m. tonight. The Locos return home at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Lorain County.