The Great Lakes Loons made history clinching its first ever Midwest League eastern division championship with a 5-2 victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers) at Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids tonight.
For the first time in franchise history the Loons advance to the MWL championship series against the western division champion Clinton (IA) Lumber Kings at Ashford University Field in Clinton, IA Wednesday night.
I've been covering the Loons since 2011 and this roster is definitely not the most talented Loons group but, I will say it is, however, by far the best 'team' I've seen in five years.
You can never count this group out of a game, no matter the deficit, which is why it didn't surprise me when they battled back from a 2-1 deficit to take the lead in the eighth inning.
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the eighth inning Loons' shortstop Brendon Davis led off with a single to center field, setting the table for the 'Clutch-Cuban' Omar Estevez who then had (arguably) the greatest hit in Great Lakes Loons baseball history, belting a 2-run home run over the left field wall at Fifth Third Ballpark to give the Loons a 3-2 lead and a chance at history.
The Loons would add two more runs in the top of the ninth on Davis' third hit of the night, an RBI single to score Gage Green who had reached on a dropped third strike. Saige Jenco then scored on another passed ball giving the Loons a 5-2 lead.
Both starters were strong tonight, as the Loons did not have a hit until the sixth inning. West Michigan starter Kyle Dowdy (2.31 ERA) would give up 1 run on 2-walks and 4-hits while striking out 4-batters through 6.1 innings.
The Whitecaps would strike first scoring on a throwing error by Loons' third baseman Zach McKinstry and added another on a David Gonzalez RBI single to lead 2-0 in the bottom of the forth inning.
Loons starter Yadier Alvarez had a great start allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4 batters.
Jose Santos (6.75 ERA) was perfect, striking out one batter after one inning of relief, but took a ball off the foot and was carried off the field wearing a special boot early in the seventh inning.
Andrew Istler earned his first win of the post-season allowing just 2-hits while striking out 3-batters through 2 innings.
The Loons' most consistent closer over the last couple months has been New York City native Shea Spitzbarth, who was named after Shea Stadium by his father -a retired FDNY firefighter- who was a 9/11 first responder during the attacks on the World Trade Center 15 years ago.
Spitzbarth (S,2) gave up just one hit in the ninth inning earning his second save of the post-season.
Davis led the Loons offensively going 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Jenco, Estevez, Jake Henson, Logan Landon, and Darien Tubbs contributed with one hit each respectively.
The Loons will head to Clinton, IA for games 1 and 2 of the (best of five) MWL championship series Wed and Thur before returning to Dow Diamond for game 3 on Sat night. Likely start time is 7:05 pm.