With the game tied at 3-runs apiece, Loons right fielder Carlos Rincon (13) took matters into his own hands when he led off the bottom of the eleventh with a walk-off home run (his thirteenth HR of the 2017 MWL season and his third walk-off this year) a moon-shot over the center field wall to beat the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) 4-3 in front of 2,632 fans at Dow Diamond tonight.
Trailing 3-2 and down to their last out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Loons DH Mitchell Hansen (4) forced extra innings when he crushed a solo home run, his fourth of the year, to tie the game at 3-runs apiece, setting up Rincon for his extra-inning heroics.
The Loons had jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the game when center fielder Cody Thomas drove in Gavin Lux and Brendon Davis with a 2-RBI single in the bottom of the third inning.
Loons starter Dustin May kept West Michigan from scoring throughout most of the game, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning, however, the Whitecaps managed to climb back into the game when newly acquired reliever Kyle Grana (a Dodgers Rule-5 pick from the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2016 MLB Rule-5 draft) ran into trouble after replacing May in the eighth inning.
Whitecaps' first baseman Danny Pinero ripped a 1-out double in the top half of the eighth then scored when second baseman David Gonzales reached base on a fielding error by Loons first baseman Gersel Pitre.
Gonzales advanced to second when left fielder Sam Machonis walked, moved to third on a passed ball charged to Loons catcher Keibert Ruiz, then scored on an infield grounder to tie the game at 2-runs apiece in the top of the eighth inning.
Grana (3.86 ERA) plugged Whitecaps third baseman Zac Shepherd with a pitch to lead off the top of the ninth inning, then gave up a single to DH Austin Athmann to put runners on first and third, before Shepherd scored on an infield ground out for a 3-2 West Michigan lead in the top of the ninth inning.
May (3.33 ERA) finished the day with another quality start, giving up 2-runs on 4-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 4-batters through 7 1/3 innings.
Loons closer Christian Stolo (3-2, 3.09 ERA) replaced Grana in the ninth, and would go on to earn his third win of the season, allowing just 2-walks, while striking out 2-batters through 2 1/3 innings.
Pitre finished 2 for 4 from the plate, and Thomas and Rincon were 2 for 5 each respectively, while Hansen was 1 for 3 with a walk, accounting for the Loons 7-hits tonight.
The Loons and Whitecaps will be back at it again tomorrow night at 7:05 pm for game-2 of this 4-game home series at Dow Diamond.