LIMA — Locos lefty A.G. Ayala gave the rotation exactly what it badly needed.
And that was a quality pitching performance, especially after Wednesday’s loss to St. Clair in which four position players were paraded to the mound.
Ayala went six innings in a 7-2 Game 1 Locos victory over Hamilton on Thursday at Simmons Field.
Hamilton won the second game of the doubleheader, 6-5, to earn a doubleheader split.
Chris Hamilton’s solo home run into the grove of trees in right in the top of the seventh gave the Joes the 6-5 lead to take the second game.
“It was a 2-2 pitch, and it was a change-up inside,” Hamilton said. “I fouled off a few fastballs, so I was looking offspeed. I knew it was gone right away.’’
In the second game, Hamilton was 4 for 4 with two home runs and two RBI.
The Locos are 14-9. Hamilton is 11-13.
Ayala (Texas A&M/Corpus Christi) worked six innings, with the last four shutout frames in Thursday’s opening game. He gave up two runs, both earned, on five hits. He struck out six and walked four.
Ayala threw 97 pitches, 60 for strikes.
Ayala fell behind 2-0 after two innings.
He quickly made an adjustment, and he was throwing strikes with his fastball and nose-diving breaking ball.
“They were really good fastball-away hitters, and we decided to change everything up,” Ayala said. “I went offspeed early and busted hard inside. I was also flying open my right shoulder, so that was the adjustment I made.’’
Added Locos coach Jared Gaynor, “He made an adjustment in the second half of the game. His arm was dragging a little bit, especially on his change-up and he was able to find it the second half and he had another weapon.’’
The opener started at 6:14 p.m. after an hour and 14 minute rain delay.
For the Locos, leadoff hitter Anthony Amicangelo went 3 for 3 with a double in the opener. For the doubleheader, he was 4 for 5 with two walks and was hit by a pitch.
“He’s (Amicangelo) has been really consistent all season long and he’s getting on base every single game it seems like,” Gaynor said. “He’s comfortable up there and is one of our more patient hitters and he knows the strike zone well.’’
Mark Castelblanco was 2 for 3 with two RBI in the opener.
John Privitera went 3 for 4 in the second game.
Jess Davis had a three-run homer in the nightcap.
In the opener, the Joes went out to a 1-0 lead in the first.
Griffin Doersching hammered an RBI double to the right-center field fence and it was 1-0.
Hamilton added to its lead in the second when Tyler Thamann hit a solo home run to left. That gave the Joes a 2-0 lead.
The Locos grabbed the lead with a four-run third inning.
Amicangelo and Michael Diffley started the third with singles.
Cade Beloso launched an RBI double to the right-field fence to get the Locos within 2-1. Brad Croy’s RBI single to left tied the game at 2.
Privitera’s RBI fielder’s choice grounder gave the Locos a 3-2 lead. Mark Castelblanco’s RBI single to right made it 4-2 Locos.
The Locos added three in the fifth to make it 7-2.
“After we put up that four spot, I got a little groove going,” Ayala said. “The first two innings I was a little upset, but after that four spot, I took a deep breath and went back to work.’’
It was especially a good outing coming off Wednesday’s 13-5 loss when four everyday players pitched because of a thin Locos’ bullpen.
“We lost a couple of guys so our bullpen is a little short now,” Ayala said. “I went out there and competed and tried to throw less pitches.’’
In the second game, the Locos took a 1-0 lead in the third.
Amicangelo singled, stole second and went to third on a fly out to deep center. He came home on a perfect squeeze bunt to the right side by Privitera.
Cole Baker (UNOH) started for the Locos and threw three shutout, one-hit innings.
But he came unraveled in the fourth. In the fourth he walked two and hit two batters.
That led to a four-run fourth inning for the Joes and a 4-1 lead.
The Joes’ Hamilton hit a solo home run to right to give the Joes a 5-1 lead in the fifth.
The Locos tied the game at 5 with a four-run fifth.
Davis pounded a three-run home run into the Joes’ bullpen. That tied the game at 5.
But Hamilton led off the top of the seventh and feasted on a change-up and sent it well into the night for a solo home run to give the Joes the lead to stay 6-5.
Locos notes: The Locos are off today and Saturday, as a number of the players will head to Country Concert. The Locos return home with a 5 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday against Richmond at Simmons Field.
Brad Croy (Bowling Green) leads the team in hitting at .391, but his 46 at-bats are short of qualifying for the league leaders. Michael Diffley (Arizona Christian) is hitting .384, which ranks eighth in the league. … Anthony Amicangelo (Johnson City CC) is hitting .354.
Cade Beloso (LSU) is hitting .353 and leads the team in home runs (3) and RBI (19). He ranks eighth in the league in RBI. Beloso also leads the team in doubles (6), which is sixth in the league.
Diffley leads the team in hits (28), which ranks sixth in the league. … Tyler Simon (Kennesaw State) and Diffley are tied for the lead in runs with 18. … John Privitera (Missouri State) leads the team with 11 stolen bases, which is seventh in the league. Diffley has 10 stolen bases.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.