LIMA – The Lima Locos added a real railroad car on tracks just behind the team’s dugout.
The railcar must have done its magic.
The Locos responded with a 5-3 victory over Grand Lake before 561 fans on Opening Day in the Great Lakes Collegiate League Friday at Simmons Field.
“We came up clutch when we needed it and it was cool to see those guys get those opportunities,” Locos coach Matt Furuto said.
The GLCL and the Locos shut down last year because of COVID-19.
The game was tied at 3 entering the home eighth.
In the eighth, the Locos Trent Belli doubled to left when the ball was lost in the lights. Belli went to third on a wild pitch.
Jake Hutchins (Wittenberg/Shawnee) delivered an RBI single up the middle to give the Locos a 4-3 lead. Derrick Jackson’s RBI single to left gave the Locos a 5-3 lead in the eighth.
Hutchins went 2 for 4 for the day.
For Hutchins it was a great way to start the summer after missing the majority of the spring at Wittenberg with a severely sprained knee and a bone bruise.
“It feels good to be back on the field again,” Hutchins said. “It feels even better to come up big for the team and get that feeling again.
“I had two strikes with a guy on third so I shortened up and tried to put it in play to get him in, hopefully. Luckily, it found a gap.’’
Furuto said of Hutchins, “He’s really been working hard and to do that in front of this crowd and that hometown feeling, he’s going to remember that for a while. I was excited for him to get that job done and score that run.’’
Locos right-hander Dylan Freeman (Montevallo) was strong in relief, as he pounded the strike zone with his fastball and breaking ball. He tossed five shutout, two-hit innings. Freeman, who earned the win, came on in the fifth and finished the game.
He struck out three and walked one.
“I got ahead with fastballs and my offspeed stuff was working from there,” Freeman said.
Freeman hadn’t pitched in a live game for almost month, but he’d been throwing bullpens to keep his arm ready.
“I pretty much can’t live without baseball,’’ he said. “It’s a part of me. I felt great (at the end). The crowd was amazing.’’
Added Furuto, “For Dylan to finish like that was amazing. I’m really excited for him. He has a presence on the mound that is really good.’’
Freeman threw close to 50 pitches.
The Locos jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
With one out, Darryl Buggs (UAB) walked and went to third on a double to left-center field by Jake Killingsworth (UAB).
Killingsworth went 2 for 4. Drew Vogel was 2 for 3.
Buggs scored from third on a wild pitch by Grand Lake starter Jordan Bekier (Findlay). Vogel’s slow-rolling, infield single to short scored Killingsworth to give the Locos a 2-0 lead.
Grand Lake got within 2-1 in the second without a hit. Caden Kaiser walked, stole second, stole third and came home on a wild pitch.
Locos starter Nick Wright (UAB) went two innings, as he was on an early-season pitch count. He gave up one run, earned, on one hit. He struck out three and walked one.
“We have some guys on pitch counts,” Furuto said. “He has really good stuff.’’
Grand Lake tied the game at 2 on an unearned run in the third.
The Mariners took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on another unearned run.
In the home fifth, Killingworth reached on an error, took second on a wild pitch. He scored on an RBI single to right by Vogel.
That tied the game at 3.
Grand Lake starter Jordan Bekier (Findlay) went four innings and gave up two runs, both earned, on three hits. He struck out two and walked four.
Wapakoneta product Joel Roediger (Bowling Green) tossed three innings of relief for Grand Lake. He gave up one unearned run on four hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Hutchins grew up watching the Locos play as a youngster and had family members house Locos.
“It doesn’t even feel real yet,” Hutchins said of his game-winning hit. “It’s like a story. It’s definitely more than I could expect.’’
Locos notes: Prior to the opener, the Locos placed five players on the inactive list. Inactive were pitchers Travis Densmore (Oakland), Kyle Moseley (Angelo State), Fred Sisco (Campbell), catcher Joseph Salvo (Samford) and infielder Garrett Howe (Samford).
Moseley is playing at the Division II World Series. Sisco, Salvo and Howe are all playing in the regionals with their team. Densmore, who threw 40 innings in the spring, is coming later.
Outfielder Miller Ladusau (Abilene Christian), who hit .322 with eight home runs, is expected to arrive on Tuesday.
The Locos are at Sandusky at 7:05 p.m. today, then travel to the Michigan Monarchs on Sunday. The Locos return home at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against Grand Lake at Simmons Field.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.