The first place Great Lakes Loons (30-16) have a 2-game cushion sitting atop the Eastern conference in the Midwest League standings following a 7-6 victory over the Fort Wayne Tincaps (San Diego Padres) at Dow Diamond Saturday night.
After losing the first three games of the season back in the early days of April, the Loons have turned things around with a red hot month of May, winning 19 of their last 23 games this month.
Loons catcher Hunter Feduccia paced the offense, going 2 for 4 with 1-RBI and 1-run scored tonight, but the LSU product says it's his club's pitching, along with team baseball which have been the keys to his clubs recent success in May.
“I feel like the pitchers have come a long way,” Feduccia said. “They've been phenomenal and we've found our bats, we've been stringing together a lot of hits. We've just been playing some good team baseball.”
With the Loons cruising through the fifth inning protecting a 7-4 lead, the Tincaps managed to keep things close when Fort Wayne left fielder Jawuan Harris (2) belted a solo home run in the top of the sixth to make it a 7-5 game, while Fort Wayne shortstop Justin Lopez drove in second baseman Xavier Edwards with an RBI-single in the top of the ninth to make it a 1-run game (7-6), before Loons closer Nathan Witt (SV4, 4.41 ERA) replaced Guillermo Zuniga with two outs in the ninth to get the final batter on three straight strikes, earning his fourth save of the year.
The Loons had jumped out to an early lead when Fecuccia reached on a 1-out single then moved to third on a double off the bat of center fielder Chris Roller, while right fielder Romer Cuadrado cleared the bases with a 2-RBI double to take a 2-0 lead with just 1-out in the bottom of the second inning.
Great Lakes continued its big second inning when Cuadrado advanced to third on a bloop single off the bat of shortstop Leonel Valera, who appeared to have been picked off at first base, however, field umpire Clay Williams ruled that Tincaps pitcher Ramon Perez had balked, allowing Cuadrado to score from third, while advancing Valera to second, before Valera eventually scored on an RBI-single off the bat of Loons third baseman Miguel Vargas for a 4-0 Great Lakes lead after two innings.
Fort Wayne managed to get on the board a couple of innings later when third baseman Luis Almanzar doubled to drive in Lopez, cutting the Great Lakes lead to 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning, but the Loons would respond with another run in the bottom half of the inning when Feduccia drove in Loons first baseman Dillon Paulson for a 5-1 lead after four innings.
The Tincaps battled back with 3-big runs in the following inning when Fort Wayne left fielder Grant Little drove in first baseman Lee Solomon with an RBI-double, setting the table for Lopez (5) who would cut the Great Lakes lead to 5-4 with a 2-run home run in the top half of the fifth.
Great Lakes extended its lead in the bottom half of the fifth when Feduccia drove in first baseman Dillon Paulson with an RBI-single, before Loons DH Niko Hulsizer scored on a sac fly RBI off the bat of Cuadrado for a 7-4 lead through five innings of play.
Loons starter Zach Willemen (7.27 ERA) gave up 4-runs on 5-hits and 3-walks, while striking out 4-batters through 4 2/3 innings, before he was replaced by reliever Jasiel Alvino (2-1, 4.82 ERA) who earned his second win of the season after allowing 1-run off 1-hit through 1 1/3 innings.
The Loons and Tincaps will be back at it on Sunday afternoon with first pitch set for 2:05 pm right back at Dow Diamond.
Video of Loons players celebrating after the win: