The Great Lakes Loons battled back to beat the top team in the Midwest League, the Clinton (IL.) LumberKings (Seattle Mariners) 8-6 in an exciting back-and-forth game in front of 2,208 fans at Dow Diamond Monday afternoon.
Loons center fielder Saige Jenco's 2-rbi double in the bottom of the eighth inning gave his team 2 out of 3 wins over Clinton and capped the most successful home stand of the 2016 season, winning 5 of their last 6 games at Dow Diamond.
Jenco knows the magnitude of a win like this, with just three road games before returning to Dow Diamond for a 7 game home stretch next week.
“It's huge, Jenco said. “We've been playing really well over the last week, and to get two out of three from these guys, you know, we knew we were going to have to battle, but we played really well yesterday and we continued today. We just have a very resilient team, we are always having fun and picking each other up, so it was huge for us -before going on the road- to get these five out of six wins.”
Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth inning the Loons chased Clinton reliever Kyle Wilcox (3-5, 7.94 ERA) after loading the bases with two outs, setting the stage for Jenco.
The LumberKings had been playing an opposite field shift to the left-hitting Jenco all day, so the former Virginia Tech Hokie turned on an inside pitch from Clinton reliever Matt Walker and pulled it down the right field line.
“I was kind of late all day so I tried to shorten up, not get a big leg kick, and just see something through the middle of the field,” Jenco said. “Luckily, he came in on the inner half and I was able to get a good swing on it.”
The Loons had fallen behind 4-1 in the fourth inning until first baseman Matt Jones took a fastball from Clinton reliever Dylan Silva and sent it 407-feet over the right field wall to get his team to within one run of the LumberKings.
“He (Silva) got ahead of me early, but I really didn't hesitate,” Jones said. “I was still looking for a fastball down the middle of the plate or middle-in. He left me a fastball down and in and I just caught it out front.”
Dodger 2016 first round draft pick Will Smith's 2-rbi single in the bottom of the fifth inning gave the Loons a 5-4 lead. However, the LumberKings fought back, plating runs in the seventh and eighth innings respectively for a 6-5 lead.
Former CMU standout Zach McKinstry followed Jenco's heroics by driving in Gage Green to give the Loons an 8-6 lead.
Great Lakes Starter Yadier Alvarez -a flame throwing prospect from Cuba- was brilliant striking out 10 batters in just four innings of work.
Alvarez, who is capable of hitting 100 mph on the radar gun and is routinely in the upper 90's, gave up 4-runs (2 of which were unearned) on 3-hits.
His one blemish was a 2-run home run allowed to Mariner's first rounder Alex Jackson in the first inning.
Loons reliever Angel German (1-1, 8.16 ERA) earned the victory, allowing just 1 run off 1 hit while striking out one batter through one inning. Shea Spitzbarth (3.12 ERA) earned the save (1) giving up just two hits, striking out one batter in the ninth inning.
The Loons have a day off tomorrow before a short three game road trip. They will then return to Dow Diamond on Saturday where they will begin a seven game home stand. *check out video of final out below