CELINA — The Locos closed out the regular season with a little bit of fun.
With second place and a home playoff game already clinched, everyday players played positions they hadn’t played all summer.
Shortstop Tyler Simon even earned a ninth-inning save.
The Locos finished the regular season Sunday with a 5-4 victory against Grand Lake at Montgomery Field.
One player who had plenty of fun was Malik Spratling, who went 2 for 4 with two solo home runs and two RBI. It marked three home runs in two days for Spratling (Gulf Coast).
Spratling joined the team the day after the All-Star Game. In 39 at-bats, he’s hitting. 359 with three home runs and 12 RBI.
“I feel like within two weeks it’s been good with the chemistry with these guys,” Spratling said. “We’re just having fun and playing the game right. I think we’re ready for the playoffs.’’
On a fun day, outfielder Brad Croy saw time at second base and shortstop. Outfielder Jess Davis played second and catcher Christian Waltman popped up at third.
Spratling played all over the diamond, including pitching.
The Locos (26-16) clinched second place in the Great Lakes Collegiate League on Saturday. Lima and St. Clair finished the regular season with the same record, but St. Clair held the tie-breaker, defeating Lima three out of the four times the teams met during the regular season.
That earned the Locos a home game in the wild-card, play-in playoff game against Saginaw at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Simmons Field.
“We wanted to get our guys a little bit of work today and the rest of them (the pitchers) we wanted to give them some rest to get them ready for Tuesday,” Locos coach Jared Gaynor said. “Now we have everyone ready.’’
The winner of the wild-card, play-in game on Tuesday will meet Northern Division champion St. Clair in a best-of-three semifinal series.
Game 1 will be at St. Clair on Wednesday.
Grand Lake ends its year 17-24.
The Locos went 6-0 against Grand Lake this season.
“I like the group of guys we have here,” Gaynor said. “They want to be here, they’re gamers and I think we have a good core nucleus that’s here.’’
Lefty Adam Biss (Emmanuel College, Ga.) started for the Locos and went five innings for the win. He gave up two runs, one earned, on three hits. He struck three and walked two.
Biss threw 67 pitches, 40 for strikes.
Troy Cordery threw a scoreless sixth, then the Locos threw three everyday players over the final three innings.
Catcher Daniel Seres pitched a scoreless seventh.
Spratling gave up one run in the eighth.
Simon came on with a 5-3 lead in the ninth. He gave up one run, on one hit. Simon ended the game with a strikeout to notch his first save.
“It felt good to be on the mound again,” Simon said. “I pitched in high school a lot.
“It felt good to come out and enjoy ourselves. I think we’re ready for the playoffs.’’
Spratling’s first home run, a blast to left, gave the Locos a 1-0 lead in the second. Jess Davis had a sacrifice fly later in the second and it was 2-0.
The Locos added two runs in the third to make it 4-0.
Spratling’s solo home run to right pushed the Locos’ lead to 5-1 in the fifth.
“That’s exactly what you want going into the playoffs,” Gaynor said. “You want some momentum going and some positive vibes and some confidence and that’s what we have right now.’’
Steven Fitzsimmons went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI for Grand Lake.
Locos notes: Lefty Tanner Hall is (Mercer) expected to start the playoff game Tuesday, unless he needs one more day rest. In that case, Tyler Miller (Texas A&M/Corpus Christi) would start.
The Locos lost two starting infielders and one outfielder on the recent four-game road trip. Third baseman Justin Wiley suffered a pulled hamstring Thursday at Muskegon. He’s sidelined, but is still with the team.
Second baseman Michael Diffley (Arizona Christian) was hit with a pitch in the head Friday at St. Clair. He has a concussion, is out for the year and went home Sunday. Diffley was hitting .328 and was fourth in the league in runs with 36. He had nine doubles, two home runs and 25 RBI.
Outfielder Jaxon Shirley (Oklahoma) re-injured his shoulder on the road trip and went home. It was the same shoulder he had surgery on.
Sunday’s starting pitcher Adam Biss turned in his uniform after the game and was headed back to Emmanuel College (Ga.).
That makes a Locos-record 17 players who have gone home this season.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.