LIMA — The Lima Locos have owned the North Division all season.
On Thursday, the Locos made it official and won the North crown.
The Locos knocked off Grand Lake 7-4 to clinch the North Division at Simmons Field.
The Locos stand 25-11 and lead second-place Michigan and Muskegon by six games with five regular-season games to play.
“The guys have been working hard all summer, so congrats to them,” Locos coach Matt Furuto said. “It’s awesome for them. They’ve done a great job so far.’’
With the title, the Locos will open the best-of-three Great Lakes Collegiate League semifinal playoff series next Thursday at home.
“I think we setting ourselves up in a good position before we head into the playoffs,” Locos RBI-record holder Tyler Tolve said. “It’s an accomplishment and hopefully there’s a lot more.’’
Grand Lake is 15-21.
The Locos scored one in the first, one in the second and one in the third to take a 3-0 lead.
In the first, the Locos’ Trevor Hatton had an RBI force out to third with the bases loaded to make it 1-0.
In the second, Jacob Pennington crushed a solo home run well over the right-center field fence and it was 2-0 Locos.
Hatton’s RBI single in the third gave the Locos a 3-0 lead.
Grand Lake got within 3-2 when Oliver Campbell hit a two-run home run to right in the fourth.
The Locos’ Tolve, the MVP of the All-Star game, launched a solo home run to left to give the Locos a 4-2 lead in the fifth.
It pushed Tolve’s team-record of RBI to 46.
“I’ve made small adjustments to my swing and I’m around guys who really enjoy the game of baseball,” Tolve said. “It’s been really fun.’’
Later in the fifth, Pennington had a sacrifice fly and Hatton had an RBI single.
That expanded the Locos’ lead to 6-2 in the fifth.
It was Campbell again in the sixth, as he drilled a two-run single to bring the Mariners within 6-4. It marked Campbell’s third hit and fourth RBI of the game.
For the Locos, Tolve went 2 for 4 with a home run and an RBI. Hatton was 2 for 4 with a double and two RBI.
Locos starter Kevin Miranda (LSU-Shreveport) earned the victory to lift his record to 5-0. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up four runs, all earned, on seven hits. He struck out six and walked one.
Miranda threw 85 pitches, 49 for strikes.
Dylan Coburn (Louisiana-Lafayette) pitched the final 2 2/3 shutout innings for the save.
For Coburn, it was his second straight strong outing after a slow start.
On July 12 at St. Clair, he threw five innings, gave up one run and struck out 11.
“It felt good today,” Coburn said. “I had a minor arm injury at the beginning of the summer and I changed my arm slot. Ever since then, it’s back to where I needed it to be. … The new arm slot has really helped me tighten my curveball and make it a better pitch.’’
Added Furuto, “I think he’s gotten some more confidence. When he was in Canada, he was lights out. I think it’s the mentality he has on the mound, with a little more confidence, a little more attack and a little more presence on the mound.’’
Now the Locos will get their rotation and bullpen set for the best-of-three semifinal series, which opens next Thursday.
“It definitely helps us going into these next few days,’’ Furuto said. “We can be a little more safe with these guys and get us ready and full speed for the playoffs.’’
Locos notes: The Locos will play the second of three games in the series with Grand Lake at Celina’s Montgomery Field at 7 p.m. Friday. The final game in the series is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Simmons Field.
Tolve broke the club’s single-season RBI record with his 45th RBI at St. Clair last weekend. He broke the Locos’ record of 44 held by Anthony Patellis in 1994. The league mark is 52.
Locos reliever Tyshaun Chapman (UNOH) signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals over the weekend. Chapman reported to Arizona.
The Locos lost four other pitchers during the All-Star break. All-Star Cole Reeves (Dallas Baptist) left for home to have his wisdom teeth taken out. … Kyler Seemann (UNOH) suffered a torn ACL knee injury before the break at Michigan and is out for the summer. … Carter Poiry (Murray State) reached his innings limit. … Erik Key (former Lamar) left for home to find a school to play for this coming year.
With five departing, the Locos signed three pitchers for the stretch run.
The new pitchers are Wapakoneta grads Manny Vorhees (Ohio Dominican) and Joel Roediger (Ohio Dominican), along with lefty Josh Harris (Illinois).
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.