Alex Santana plays hero with two out walk off

trailing 2-1 Justin Chigbogu drove in the tying run then scored on Santana's heroic single for 3-2 Loons win....

Posted In: Sports, Great Lakes Loons,   By: Jason Marcoux

31st July, 2015     0

Loons outfielder Alex Santana was in a mini-slump throughout this recent three game home series against the South Bend Cubs. He had gone thirteen consecutive at-bats without a hit, but number fourteen was definitely a charm.

Santana drove in Justin Chigbogu from second base for the game winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Loons a 3-2 walk-off victory in front of 5,284 faithful at Dow Diamond. It was the seventh sellout for the Loons at Dow Diamond this season.

“I was just trying to stay up the middle, I had been pulling off the ball a little bit lately so I was trying to stay up the middle,” Santana said. “I knew the guy had a heavy two-seam, and like I said, the best thing to do with a guy like that is to take him right back up the middle or try to hit it the other way, and fortunately things worked out.”

South Bend had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth after a couple mental mistakes by the Loons defense. South Bend left fielder David Bote led off the inning with a walk and instantly advanced to second base after the fourth ball skipped in the dirt and rolled all the way to the backstop.

The next batter, Cubs catcher Erick Castillo, laid down a perfect bunt with the intention of just moving Bote over to third base. Disaster struck when Loons pitcher, Scott Griggs' errant throw to first base sailed wide and skipped in the dirt toward the Loons dugout, allowing Bote to score and giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

The Loons had a glimmer of hope when Matt Beaty singled in the ninth inning, but things started looking pretty dire when Kyle Garlick struck out for the second out of the inning. Fortunately for the Loons, Chigbogu has been on a 12-game hit streak and has a flare for the dramatic.

He also received some hitting advice from Loons coach Luis Matos, who recognized that the Cubs had been pitching Chigbogu strictly low and away. Matos advised his young power hitter to take what they were giving him. Instead of trying to pull the ball for power, maybe try driving the ball to the opposite field. The left handed Chigbogu took his coaches advice, and with a nice inside-out swing, drove a double into the gap in left center field, scoring Beaty to tie the game.

“He's swinging the bat pretty good and he's learning to go the other way,” Matos said about Chigbogu. “When they throw him inside he just hit's it out of the ball park. He's so strong that he can do that, and I think he's just learning that now. That first pitch, he was doing the old swing, and I told him, hey, go the other way, they're throwing you all fastballs away -or change ups- so, how are you going to recognize the change up? Because when you are in that pull-mode, you're not going to see the fastball, you're going to roll over and then the change up is going to be tough to recognize.”

Matos played for the Baltimore Orioles from 2000-to-2006 and for the Washington Nationals in late 2006 so he knows a thing or two about learning to hit good pitching. Chigbogu echoed his skipper's thoughts about learning to take what the pitcher is giving you instead of trying to pull the ball every time at bat.

“When you have a pitcher who is throwing in the mid-to-upper nineties, you have to try to go up the middle with it,” Chigbogu said. “I tried to stay middle-away and put the ball up the middle somewhere without trying to pull it, just nice and easy contact and drive it up the middle. He's a great pitcher, he throws very hard, so I tried to calm myself, not trying to do too much. I just tried to do what (coach Luis) Matos had told me, and it turned out to be a great hit out to left center.”

Throughout the first eight innings, It was a battle of two Tommy's in a classic pitcher's duel. South Bend starter Tommy Thorpe (3-5, 3.73 ERA) took the hill against Loons starter Tommy Bergjans (0-1, 4.30 ERA) and the two Tommy's had almost identical lines. Bergjans allowed just one run off 5-hits, walked one, and struck out 6-batters through 5.2 innings; while Thorpe also allowed just one run off 5-hits, walking two, and striking out 3-batters through 6-innings.

Griggs (3-1, 3.24 ERA) earned the win after allowing just one unearned run off 0-hits, walking one and striking out 2-batters through 1.1 innings. Reliever Cameron Palmer (2-1, 2.45 ERA) pitched two scoreless innings allowing two hits and 1-walk while striking out three batters. Chigbogu was 2-for-4 with an RBI, a double, and 1-run scored. Loons shortstop Michael Ahmed was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.

The Loons will now head out to Lake County for a three game road series before returning to Dow Diamond for six straight home games starting with a 3-game series against the Beloit Snappers on Tuesday and finishing with a 3-game series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers over next weekend.



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