The Great Lakes Loons scored six runs (all with two outs) in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, where they would ultimately prevail with an incredible 11-10 come from behind victory over the Lake County (OH.) Captains (Cleveland Indians) following a walk off single by Darien Tubbs.
Tubbs, a 2016 draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers from the University of Memphis, ripped a walk off single up the middle scoring catcher Garrett Hope -who had just doubled- with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning.
“Man, that first strike he called, I thought was pretty low,” Tubbs said. “I'm glad I stayed composed and was able to come through right there. I was just trying stay through and put it up the middle somewhere.”
Tubbs, who had hit his first professional home run against the South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) on Monday, showed off his new found power with his second professional round-tripper in the third inning tonight.
But don't get it twisted, adding the long ball to his box of baseball tools is all good and nice, but he'll take a walk off single over a home run any day, as long as it means his team is winning.
“When you're hitting homers it's pretty fun, everybody wants to hit homers,” Tubbs said. “and being able to show off another tool I have with power is pretty nice, but I'll definitely take the walk off single because I love winning.”
Batting with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning, Hope was able to extend his team's 'hope' for a miracle when he ripped a double into the right-center field gap, which put him in position to score the winning run on Tubbs' hit.
“I'm just thinking, really, get on base,” Hope said of batting in such a pressure situation. “just like the inning before whenever we scored six. I Just wanted to get something started for the team and hopefully everybody else moves along with me.”
The Loons had been trailing 10-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Captains' reliever Jon Fitzsimmons walked four consecutive Great Lakes batters, the first four walks of the game by any Lake County pitcher.
After a pitching change, Loons second baseman Omar Estevez sent a 1-1 fastball sailing into the muggy night's sky, high above Dow Diamond and over the left field wall for a grand slam home run (9) to bring the Loons to within 1 run of the Captains.
Luke Raley, a 2016 Dodgers seventh round pick out of Lake Erie College, came up to extend the Loons' rally with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Lake Erie College is a division II school that competes with Northwood and SVSU in the GLIAC.
Raley may have come from a small school, but showed why he's a big time baseball player, following Estevez back-to-back with a home run to left field which tied the game at 10 runs apiece.
“Honestly, we were just trying to find a way to play as a team.” Hope said. “finally, I feel like we clicked tonight. In the dugout we were like 'we're down by six but let's keep going because anything can happen' and it turned out for the best.”
Lake County starter Triston McKenzie (4-4, 4.50 ERA) proved why the Cleveland Indians selected him in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft as a 17 year old out of Royal Palm Beach (FL.) H.S. dominating Loons' batters through a solid 6.2 inning start.
McKenzie -a lanky 6-foot-5, 160-pound right hand pitcher who is currently the No. 7 prospect (No. 3 pitcher) in the Cleveland organization- gave up 3-runs on 5-hits, striking out 8 batters.
The Loons started Cuban fireballer Yadier Alvarez (2-2, 2.91 ERA) who was chased after giving up back to back singles followed by a 2 run triple to Lake County No. 9 hitter Ordomar Valdez as he fell behind 4-1 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Alvarez, who received a massive $16 million dollar bonus after signing as an international free agent with L.A. one year ago, is understandably being kept on a short leash when it comes to pitch count, but still shows why the Dodgers were willing to go after the 20 year old from Matanzas, Cuba.
Alvarez gave up 4-runs (3 of which were earned) on 7-hits while striking out 3 batters through 3.2 innings tonight.
Loons reliever Ivan Vieitez (2-2, 4.01 ERA) earned his second win of the season giving up 2-runs (1 of which was earned) on 2-hits and 1 walk, while striking out 1 batter through two innings.
Estevez was 3 for 5 with five rbi to lead the Loons offense tonight. Hope was 3 for 4 with a walk, 2-runs, and one rbi, while Tubbs finished 2 for 4 with a walk, 2-runs, and 2-rbi.
The Loons -who join Lake County (with a 19-26 second half record) in the Midwest League's eastern division playoff standings- will return to Dow Diamond tomorrow for a 7 pm second game of this crucial four game series. They are 3.5 games back of the Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays) for the final playoff spot.