With just 15-games remaining in the first half, the first place Great Lakes Loons (37-21) opened a 4-game home series with an impressive 10-1 victory over the South Bend (IN) Cubs (Chicago Cubs) in front of 3,609 at Dow Diamond in Midland, MI tonight.
The Loons jumped all over South Bend starter Brailyn Marquez early when Great Lakes catcher Jair Camargo and shortstop Jacob Amaya opened the game with back to back 1-out singles, while an error by Cubs infielder Rafael Narea allowed Loons first baseman Dillon Paulson to reach safely, as Camarga scored for a 1-0 Great Lakes lead with just 1-out in the opening inning.
Marquez continued to struggle throughout the first, walking Great Lakes designated hitter Niko Hulsizer to load the bases, then hitting Loons center fielder Chris Roller with a pitch, which brought in Amaya for a 2-0 lead, before Loons second baseman Luke Heyer roped a 2-RBI single to drive in Paulson and Hulsizer for a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Great Lakes third baseman Miguel Vargas would keep the Loons' bats sizzling in the second frame with a lead-off double, before scoring on an RBI-double off the bat of Camarga, who eventually scored on a sac fly RBI by Paulson for a 5-0 lead, before another walk to Hulsizer would ultimately chase Marquez with only 1-out in the bottom of the second.
South Bend reliever Jeff Passantino appeared to have gotten the Cubs out of the disastrous second when he forced Heyer to hit (what looked like) a routine infield grounder, however, another South Bend infield error on the throw to first would allow Amaya to score from second, extending the inning; which led to a 2-run double by Loons right fielder (former CMU Chippewa) Dan Robinson for a 9-0 Great Lakes lead after two innings.
Marquez (3-2, 4.83 ERA) who was still on the hook for Amaya and Hulsizer, was charged with his second loss of the season after giving up 5-earned runs on 5-hits and 3-walks with 2-strikeouts through just 1 1/3 innings, while Passantino relented 1-earned run on 3-hits and 1-walk, with 5-strikeouts in his 3 1/3 innings of relief.
The Loons would extend the lead to double digits in the fourth when Hulsizer reached on his third consecutive trip to the plate, promptly stole second base, then scored when Robinson lined a check-swing double directly over third base and into left field for a 10-0 lead after four innings.
Great Lakes starter John Rooney (2-1, 3.98 ERA) put together (arguably) his most impressive start as a pro, picking up his second win of the year after allowing just 3-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 7-South Bend batters through 5-scoreless innings after being replaced by Loons reliever Drew Finley(4.91 ERA) who went on to allow just two walks, while striking out 2-batters through 1 2/3 innings of relief.
The Cubs would finally get on the board late when South Bend third baseman Christopher Morel (4) led off the final inning with a solo home run to cut the Great Lakes lead to 10-1 in the top of the ninth.
The Loons and Cubs will return for game-2 of this 4-game series with first pitch set for 7:05 pm right back here at Dow Diamond tomorrow night.
Video of Loons closer Nathan Witt striking out the final South Bend batter to secure the win: