The Great Lakes Loons (32-30) garnered a ton of offense to back up a tremendous pitching performance by starter Leo Crawford, taking the final game of a 4-game series over the South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) with a 7-1 victory, ultimately winning the series 3 games to one at Dow Diamond tonight.
Loons left fielder Mitchell Hansen had a huge night, going 2 for 4 with 2-RBI's, including a 2-run bomb in the bottom of the seventh inning. He realized South Bend reliever Jose Paulino had been leaving his slider up in the zone while watching Cody Thomas bat earlier in the inning, so he used that information to take Paulino deep.
“I noticed Cody Thomas had hit a slider really well to left field and it hit the wall, so I knew he'd leave that pitch up every now and then,” Hansen said. “And I had just barreled one foul down the line that I thought was fair, and so I guess I'll just ride on it, he left it in the zone and I hit it.”
The Loons wasted little time getting things started early in the game when Gavin Lux led off with a single and moved to second on a swinging-bunt by DH Oneil Cruz before scoring on an RBI single off the bat of Thomas to take an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Designated hitter Carlos Rincon (who is rumored to have gotten a waiver from the league to compete in the upcoming MWL Home Run Derby during All Star week at Dow Diamond) extended the Great Lakes lead to 2-0 with a 1-out solo shot in the bottom of the third inning to move himself into a 3-way tie for second place in the MWL home run race with his eleventh home run of the season.
Hansen set off a big rally in the bottom of the fourth inning with a lead off double and scored on a bloop RBI single by first baseman Erick Meza for a 3-0 lead.
Third baseman Gersel Pitre grounded Meza into 6-4 force out, but managed to beat out the double play to reach on a fielders choice and moved to second on a single by Lux, before scoring on an RBI single by Cruz for a 4-0 Loons lead through four innings.
Crawford (3-4, 4.47 ERA) managed to bounce back with one of his best performances of the year in his first start since getting roughed up by Detroit Tigers affiliate, the West Michigan Whitecaps on June, 7 were he gave up 8-runs on 11-hits in a 9-2 loss.
The 20 year old international free agent from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua allowed just 3-hits and 2-walks, striking out 4-batters, while throwing 57 of his 96 pitches for strikes through 6-scoreless innings to earn his third win of the season.
Thomas ripped a 1-out double then moved to third base on a single by Loons shortstop Brendon Davis, before scoring on a fielders choice by Ruiz, extending the lead to 5-0 for the Loons.
Hansen (3) followed by driving in Ruiz with a 375-foot 2-run home run, his third of the season to inflate the Loons' lead to 7-0 through seven innings.
Reliever Sven Schuller (SV,3) came on to replace Crawford in the seventh inning and did not give up a run until late in the ninth inning. He would go on to earn his third save of the season after giving up the 1-run on 4-hits, while striking out 3-batter through 3-innings of relief.
Five different Loons batters had multiple hits tonight. Hansen led the way going 2 for 4 with a home run and a double, while Thomas and Meza each finished 2 for 3 respectively and Lux and Cruz were 2 for 5 tonight.
The Loons will now embark on the road for 7-games in 6-days to round out the first half of the Midwest League season. They will play 4-games against the second place Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Red) Wed-Thur this week, trailing the Dragons by 5-games for one of the two available first half playoff spots before capping off the first half with three games against the Bowling Green Hot Rods Fri-Sun this weekend.
The Loons will return to Midland for the 2017 MWL Home Run Derby and All Star Game Mon-Tue Jun 19-20 next week.