LIMA – Dark clouds hovered over Simmons Field most of night.
But even a 49-minute rain delay wouldn’t stand in the way of the Lima Locos’ first victory.
The Locos scored the winning run right after the delay in the seventh inning to post a 2-1 victory over Grand Lake in a Great Lakes Collegiate League game Wednesday at Simmons Field.
The Locos and Grand Lake both stand 1-1. Grand Lake won the first game of the series 6-5 at Grand Lake Tuesday.
It marked the first victory for Locos coach Matt Furuto.
“Definitely a win is a great thing and I’m very thankful for that,” Furuto said. “But we have a long way to go. We have to continue to get better.
“The guys responded well. We found a way to scratch one in to win it at the end. The guys came out clutch and pulled it out.’’
The same teams conclude their three-game series at 7 p.m. tonight at Grand Lake’s Montgomery Field.
Locos second baseman Zach Sweet (Lamar) had both RBI.
“It’s real important to get this win,” Sweet said. “You don’t want to start the season off a on a losing streak. To get our first ‘W’ is really huge. It was fun game with a little lightning delay and a little rain delay. It’s all part of it. It was a good night.’’
With the game tied at 1 in the home seventh, the Locos’ Ryan Smith started the inning with a single.
That’s when lightning danced across the dark sky and a monsoon passed through the area.
After a 49-minute delay, the Locos resumed their at-bat in the seventh.
Smith stole second and went to third on a wild pitch.
Sweet’s sacrifice fly to center scored Smith to give the Locos a 2-1 lead in the seventh.
For the game, Sweet went 1 for 3 with two RBI. Sweet went 3 for 5 in the opener.
“It’s been a month since my last actual game so getting off to a good start is really good,” Sweet said. “I’m sticking to my approach, staying on top of the ball and trying to find a hole.’’
All three Locos’ pitchers had strong outings, as they combined on a four-hitter.
“I thought they did a great job of attacking and throwing multiple pitches for strikes,” Furuto said. “Whenever a pitcher can throw multiple pitches it creates doubts in the hitters. If you can mix and throw strikes, it’s a good combination.’’
Locos starter right-hander Erik Key (Lamar) pitched five shutout innings.
He hit the first batter he faced and walked the second batter. Key then settled in and escaped the first inning without yielding a run.
“It was the start of the year,” Key said of the beginning. “I just tried to narrow it down to throwing first-pitch strikes and then wanted to locate fastballs in.’’
Key mixed in his slider and change-up in his five innings. He gave up one hit, struck out three and walked two.
Key threw 90 pitches, 43 for strikes.
“I threw my slider pretty well today,” Key said. “It was definitely important to me to go out and get this win. I know it’s a big rivalry between these two teams.’’
Jared Rine (Kennesaw State) came on in relief for the Locos in the sixth and picked up the win. He worked two innings and gave up one unearned run on two hits. Rine struck out three.
Ian McWilliams (Alabama-Birmingham) pitched the final two shutout innings for the save. He struck out four, walked two and gave up one hit.
McWilliams got the first two hitters in the top of the night. He then gave up a single and a walk.
McWilliams came back and struck out Mariners leadoff hitter Sean Dixson to end it.
Both teams had one error in the game.
“If we can pitch and play defense, we’ll be in any game,” Furuto said.
The Locos took a 1-0 lead in the home third.
Alexei Cazarin singled and Xavier Haendiges walked.
Sweet’s RBI single to center brought home Cazarin to give the Locos a 1-0 lead.
Grand Lake tied the game with an unearned run in the top of the seventh.
Jack Gallagher reached on a throwing error on the Locos shortstop. He was bunted to second by Will David.
With two outs, Thomas Eitniear had an RBI single to right to tie the game at 1.
Grand Lake starter Tristan Haught (Wright State) went 5 1/3 innings before he left in the sixth with a blister on his pitching hand.
Haught gave up one run, earned, on four hits. He struck out four and walked two.
Haught threw 78 pitches, 51 for strikes.
Locos notes: The Locos wrap up the three-game series with Grand Lake at 7 p.m. today at Grand Lake’s Montgomery Field.
The Locos will start lefty Colin Scanlon (LaSalle) tonight at Grand Lake.
Muskegon will come to Simmons Field on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Friday and Saturday games will start at 7, while it is a 5 p.m. start on Sunday.
GLCL commissioner Deron Brown attended the Locos’ opener at Grand Lake. He said “saving pitching” was the reason for the extra-inning rule changes. Games will now be limited to 12 innings and in the 11th and 12th innings both teams will start the inning with a runner at second base. The 10th inning will play in normal fashion.
The Locos had two former players taken in the first 30 rounds of the Major League Baseball draft. Outfielder Will Robertson (Creighton) was taken in the fourth round by Toronto. Shortstop Tyler Tolbert (Alabama-Birmingham) was taken in the 13th round by Kansas City.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.