LIMA – The Lima Locos were in desperate need of an innings eater out of their depleted bullpen.
Enter one of the team’s summer interns Cody Niewinski, who throws junior varsity ball at the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Niewinski pitched well and finished the final 4 1/3 innings in the Locos’ 6-1 loss to Irish Hills in Game 1 of the doubleheader Saturday at Simmons Field.
In the second game, the Locos rallied late to knock off Irish Hills 5-4 for a doubleheader split.
In the second game, the Locos scored four in the home sixth to take a 5-4 lead.
Malik Spratling gave the Locos the 5-4 lead with a sacrifice fly to center.
Mark Castelblanco picked up the win, while Jordan Marks had the save.
“It was pretty fun,” Niewinski said of his first outing. “I’d like to thank the coach (Jared Gaynor) for having faith in me. It was fun coming out and playing again.’’
The Locos trailed 4-0 in the third when Irish Hills had the bases loaded and two outs.
That was it for Locos starter Troy Cordrey, who was making his first start of the year.
On came Niewinski, who dressed for his first Locos’ game on Saturday. He usually performs a variety of game-day activities around the ballpark as an intern.
All Niewinski did was get Noah Suarez to pop up to short to escape the bases-loaded jam.
Not bad for someone who hadn’t thrown competitively in two months.
“I was on a weighted-ball program and had been throwing all summer,” Niewinski said. “My blood is always pumping. (Coming in with the bases loaded), I got on the mound and just wanted to get the job done. I got him out with an offspeed pitch. After that, I felt a lot better.’’
Niewinski threw strikes with his fastball, change-up and breaking ball until the final inning.
“That’s my job as a pitcher. That’s what I do, throw strikes,” Niewinski said.
Niewinski threw 3 1/3 shutout frames before he gave up two runs in the seventh and final inning. He ended up going 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs, both earned, on three hits. He struck out one and walked two.
The Locos (23-12) are in first place in the Northern Division by two games over St. Clair.
Irish Hills is 17-17.
“You have to avoid a sweep,” Locos coach Jared Gaynor said. “I was proud of our guys to come back and fight there.’’
Irish Hills right-hander Sam Benschoter (Michigan State) used a fastball and change-up to baffle the Locos in the opener.
Benschoter gave up one run, earned, on six hits. He struck out six and walked two.
Benschoter threw 107 pitches, 70 for strikes.
In the opener, Irish Hills scored two in the first and two more in the second to take a 4-0 lead.
The Locos got within 4-1 in the home fifth on a solo home run by Justin Wiley.
Niewinski will pitch on the UNOH varsity next year.
Gaynor said, “He pitched a great game and pounded the zone. He wasn’t overpowering, but he changed speeds and was throwing strikes. You can expect him to be out pitching for us again.’’
In the second game, Irish Hills scored two in the first to take a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Guckin’s solo home run in the fifth gave Irish Hills a 4-1 lead.
In the sixth for the Locos, Wiley put down a bunt single and went to third on a double by Anthony Amicangelo.
Michael Diffley’s two-run double brought the Locos within 4-3. Brad Croy’s RBI double tied the game at 4.
That set up Spratling’s game-winning sacrifice fly.
“We started to string together some hits,” Gaynor said. … “Malik (Spratling) had a great at-bat to take the lead. He got down 0-2, then he was able to drive the ball deep to center to get the run in.’’
Castelblanco threw 2 2/3 innings of relief for the win. He gave up one run, earned, on two hits. He struck out three and walked none.
“I felt really good throwing strikes,” Castelblanco said.
Marks entered the game in the seventh with a runner on first and no outs. He walked Guckin to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Locos catcher Daniel Seres then fired to second after a failed bunt attempt and picked off Preston Pilat at second base.
“He tried to sac bunt and made a really bad attempt at it,” Seres said. “That made it easy for me. I just had to get it out and throw as hard as I could. He jumped way off and I saw (shortstop) Tyler (Simon) get to the bag. I just threw it and he was out.’’
Marks got the next two hitters and that was the game.
Locos notes: The Locos conclude their three-game home series with Irish Hills at 7 p.m. today at Simmons Field.
The Locos lost three more players for the year this week, pitcher Nate Witherspoon (Missouri State), second baseman John Privitera (Missouri State) and pitcher A.G. Ayala (Texas A&M Corpus Christi).
Privitera pulled his quad muscle at Lake Erie and was going to be sidelined a few weeks so he left for home. Privitera was hitting .349 with a team-high 14 stolen bases.
Lefty Ayala went home after he was shut down because of suffering tendinitis in his left forearm/elbow. Ayala was 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA.
Witherspoon had a neck injury.
The Locos have now lost 14 players from opening day.
The Locos added four players to the roster this week, including pitcher Evan Baber (Chattahoochee Valley CC), pitcher Jake Wojciechowski (Owens CC) and outfielder/pitcher Malik Spratling (Gulf Coast State). Spratling is the brother of Locos shortstop Tyler Simon. Also added was UNOH’s Cody Niewinski.
The Locos rank fourth in the league in hitting (.294) and are third in ERA (4.95).
Brad Croy (Bowling Green) is second in the league in hitting at .410. Anthony Amicangelo (Johnson County) is eighth at .371.
The Locos are averaging 7.2 runs-per-game. They are giving up 5.5 runs-per-game.