The Great Lakes Loons (23-27) ran its win streak to six straight on another huge play, this one defensively from CF Chris Roller for a 3-2 victory over the Dayton Dragons at Dow Diamond tonight.
Heading into the ninth inning, it looked like Loons first baseman Devin Mann would be the headliner after his 3-RBI at bat, which included a 2-run triple to give the Loons a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth, but yesterday's hero, Roller, managed to make a huge defensive play to preserve the win.
With 2-outs and the bases loaded for Dayton in the ninth, the Loons found themselves clinging to a 3-1 lead when Dragons' catcher Mark Kolozsvary ripped a base hit to center field, scoring shortstop Jeter Downs with LF Andy Sugilio (the tying run) close behind, but Roller fielded the ball clean and came up throwing, sending a laser-beam to home, where Loons catcher Gersel Pitre easily tagged Sugilio to end the game.
“Dude's got ice in his veins,” Mann said of Roller's tendency for big plays. “Every big situation he's been in he's came through, I mean the kid just has the knack for making the right play at the right time, so he's doing a great job. He's winning ball games for us, keeping us in games with his arm and his bat.”
Much like yesterday, the Loons had trouble plating runs and were trailing 1-0 when Pitre mounted a comeback with a lead-off single in the bottom of the eighth, while Jacob Amaya and Drew Avans followed with back to back 1-out walks to load the bases, which set the stage for Mann, who got the first of his 3-RBI's when Pitre scored from third on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1-run apiece, before blasting a 2-run triple to score Amaya and Avans for a 3-1 Loons lead.
Mann was patient in his approach, picking up on the mind-games of the Dayton pitcher, before getting the pitch he wanted and roping a shot into the left-center field gap, which traveled all the way to the wall at Dow Diamond.
“They were trying to sneak fastballs by me early in the count, trying to use reverse-psychology on me,” Mann said. “I put a good swing on the first one, just missed it a little bit, then he threw that curve ball in the dirt and we were lucky it got away and scored one run. Then I got a fastball middle-out and I put a good swing on it. I was lucky to have the break that I did, I'm thankful for the opportunity.”
The Dragons had pulled ahead with a run in the second when Kolzsvary drove in Dayton DH J.D. Williams (who had walked) with a 2-out RBI-triple for a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
After giving up the triple in the second, Loons starter Joel Inoa (4.70 ERA) would put together his best performance of the year (at the single-A level) retiring 13 of the final 14 batters (including the last 10 in a row) he faced, while giving up 1-run on 2-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 4-batters through 6-solid innings.
Loons reliever Devin Hemmerich (4-5, 3.23 ERA) picked up his fourth win of the season after allowing just 1-walk, with 1-strikeout through 2-impressive relief innings, while closer Jasiel Alvino (SV6, 2.16 ERA) picked up his sixth save of the year for the Loons after giving up 1-run on 3-hits, with 1-strikeout to close out the ninth.
Dayton starter Austin Orewiler was impressive for the Dragons as well, allowing just 4-hits and 1-walk, while striking out 7-batters through 6-scoreless innings.
The Loons remain just a half game back of a second half wild card spot in the Midwest League post-season after the Fort Wayne Tincaps (23-26) beat the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) again tonight, however, the Loons will look to keep the win-streak going and lock down that wild card spot when they welcome Dayton for game-3 of this 4-game series at 7:05 pm right back here at Dow Diamond tomorrow night.
Gersel Pitre scores on a wild pitch in the first video, while Devin Mann drives in 2 runs with an eighth inning triple to give the Loons a 3-1 lead in the second video: