LIMA – Saginaw did a lot more than take baby steps in its first year in the Great Lakes Collegiate League.
First, it made the playoffs.
Then, Saginaw captured a spot in the GLCL best-of-three semifinals.
Saginaw held on to knock off the Lima Locos 10-9 in a one-game, wild-card, play-in game Wednesday night at Simmons Field.
The Sugar Beets advance to the best-of-three semifinal playoffs against Northern Division champion St. Clair.
Game 1 will be at 7 p.m. today at St. Clair in Windsor, Ontario.
Locos three-year veteran Brad Croy (Bowling Green/Ottawa-Glandorf) looked back with good memories of his three years, including last year’s championship team.
“I loved every second of it,” Croy said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t do as well this year. I’m grateful that they let me play here.’’
The Locos and Saginaw split the four games they played during the regular season.
The Locos, because of injuries and players going home, were forced to play a catcher at third base and another catcher in right field.
The Locos had 19 players head home this season.
“I think most people counted us out once went down 15 (players), then 17, then 19,” the Locos’ Tyler Simon said. “But all we needed was nine guys on the field to win and I feel like that’s what we did most of the season. There were 13 position guys who did whatever it takes to win.
“And tonight we came up short, but we fought back in the seventh with a five-spot right there. This team was resilient all year and never gave up. I enjoyed it.’’
Having players playing out of position contributed to the Locos making eight errors on the night.
Even still, the Locos didn’t run up the white flag.
The Locos led 3-1 after two innings before Saginaw posted three in the third to take a 4-3 lead.
The Sugar Beets extended their lead to 10-4 heading into the home seventh.
That’s when the Locos came back with five runs to get within 10-9.
“It’s a really tough situation and even losing two more (players) in the last two days,” Locos coach Jared Gaynor said. “We had guys out of positions that they weren’t used to, but yet, it’s the fact that we came back and made it a ballgame is impressive in itself. They fought all the way until the end.’’
Brady Wood supplied the bulk of offense for the Sugar Beets. He went 3 for 5 with a home run and four RBI.
Connor Charping went 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBI for Saginaw.
For the Locos, Anthony Amicangelo went 2 for 5 with an RBI.
Croy was 2 for 3 with two walks.
Malik Spratling had a home run and two RBI.
Mark Castelblanco was 3 for 3 with a triple, two walks and an RBI.
Braden Doughty was 3 for 5 with a double and three RBI for the Locos.
Saginaw took a 1-0 lead in the first.
The Locos took a 2-1 lead in the home first.
Amicangelo singled and Spratling blasted a two-run home run to left-center field to make it 2-1. It was Spratling’s fourth home run over the last three games.
The Locos made it 3-1 in the second.
Saginaw scored three in the third to take a 4-3 lead.
Saginaw added two more runs off Locos starter Tanner Hall in the fourth. Wood’s two-run single gave the Sugar Beets a 6-3 lead.
Hall lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up six runs, four earned, on six hits. He struck out five and walked three.
Hall threw 81 pitches, 48 for strikes.
Wood cranked a two-run home run in the sixth, which banged off the left-field scoreboard. That pushed the Sugar Beets’ lead to 8-3.
Doughty’s RBI single in the sixth got the Locos within 8-4.
Simon’s RBI double in the home seventh brought the Locos within 10-5. Castelblanco followed with an RBI single and it was 10-6. Doughty then delivered a two-run double into the left-field corner and suddenly Lima was within 10-8.
Amicangleo’s RBI double made it 10-9 Saginaw.
That was as close as the Locos would get.
All in all, with a razor-thin pitching staff, catchers at third and right field and no healthy everyday players left on the bench, a 26-16 season and playoff berth will have its own place in Locos’ history.
“We definitely battled and we had our struggles all year,” Croy said. “We didn’t play like everyone’s used to the Locos playing. But with what we had, I think we did pretty well.’’
Added Gaynor, “I had a positive moment last night when I thought, all these guys left, more than half our team left, and we’re still in the playoffs and took second place, tied for first, record-wise. That’s when I reflected, ‘You don’t have to have all these super stars. If you have a core group of guys, who really care and really want to win and are really invested, that’s all you need.’ ’’
Locos notes: Croy finished third in the league in hitting at .386.
Michael Diffley (Arizona Christian), who was out with a concussion, finished eighth in runs with 36. The 36 runs are the third most in Locos history. Kyle Lewis set the record of 41 in 2014.
Cade Beloso (LSU) was 12th in doubles with 11.
Lefty Tanner Hall (Mercer) finished fifth in ERA (3.40) and fourth in strikeouts (51).
The Locos finished fourth in hitting (.284), sixth in ERA (4.90) and third in fielding percentage (.965). … The Locos made 54 errors in 42 games.
The Locos averaged 6.5 runs-per-game and gave up 5.4 runs-per-game.
The Locos’ starters compiled an ERA of 4.33. The bullpen had an ERA of 5.78.
Outfielder Anthony Amicangelo (Johnson County CC) was named first team all-GLCL.
Named to the second team were catcher Daniel Seres (Kennesaw State), designated hitter Croy; pitcher Tanner Hall (Mercer) and pitcher Brison Finney (Kennesaw State).
First baseman Beloso and infielder Diffley were named honorable mention.
The Locos lost two more players in the last two days. Outfielder Jess Davis (foot injury) and outfielder Nathan Fancher both went home.
That makes a team-record 19 Locos who left the team.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.