With a come-from-behind win in extra-innings over a good team like the Hot Rods (who have the second best record in the entire Midwest League) Loons skipper John Shoemaker is hoping this victory will help push his young team in a positive direction.
“We knew going in that this was a good team we were facing, but no matter who you're facing you need to go out and play with a lot of energy,” Shoemaker said. “We haven't been home that much and the weather hasn't been that good around here lately, but maybe this might be the sign of some good things to come, you never know.”
The Loons were trailing 5-4 and down to their final out in the bottom of the ninth when LF Starling Heredia (2) belted a 2-out solo home to force the first extra-inning game at Dow Diamond this year.
The new rule (meant to help speed up games and limit pitch counts) states that the runner on second must be the batter (in the order) prior to the lead-off hitter for that inning, so Bowling Green first baseman Jim Haley started the top of the tenth on second base, while Loons closer Aneurys Zabala walked the actual first batter he faced, before a sac bunt by Hot Rods DH Zacrey Law put runners on second and third with just 1-out.
Loons shortstop Moises Perez followed by making (arguably) the play of the game when he snatched a hard-hit ball up the middle on a short-hop, spun around in the same motion, and threw a laser to Loons catcher Ramon Rodriguez who tagged Haley at home for the second out of the tenth, before Zabala ended the Bowling Green threat by striking out Ronaldo Hernandez to end the inning.
Rodriguez led off the bottom of the tenth with a sac bunt to move Mitchell Hansen (who started on second base for the Loons) over to third, while Perez was struck out by Bowling Green closer Hunter Schryver for the second out of the inning, before a wild pitch by Schryver (while facing Loons second baseman Brandon Montgomery) allowed Hansen to score for the 6-5 walk-off win.
“Moises Perez made a big league play up the middle to cut down the runner at the plate,” Shoemaker said of Perez' defensive effort. “Then, in our situation, (Ramon) Ray-Ray Rodriguez did a nice job of bunting Mitchell (Hansen) over, and it looked like they were almost out of the inning, but we got a break there on the wild pitch.”
Bowling Green had jumped out to an early lead when Loons starter Andre Jackson (making his professional baseball debut) ran into some early trouble after walking Walls to lead off the game, followed by giving up a single to Law, and an RBI-single to Hot Rods second baseman Zach Rutherford, which drove in Walls, before an error led to Rutherford scoring on a sac fly RBI to give Bowling Green a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Loons' response was quick when CF Brayan Morales led off the next half-inning with a single then advanced to second after Montgomery reached on an overthrow error, while Morales scored on an RBI-single by Loons first baseman Jared Walker, before Heredia drove in Montgomery and Walker with a 2-RBI single for a 3-2 Great Lakes lead in the bottom of the first inning.
After settling in throughout the next few innings, Jackson's day would come to an end after a 1-out walk to Bowling Green CF Carl Chester in the fourth, however, Jackson would remain on the hook for Chester, who was eventually driven in when Hot Rods third baseman Adrian Rondon roped an RBI-double off of Loons reliever Austin Hamilton, before Haley (1) followed with a 2-run home run (his first of the year) to give the Hot Rods a 5-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
Jackson (who hadn't pitched competitively since undergoing Tommy John surgery in early 2017 as a redshirt sophomore at the University of Utah, prior to being selected by the Dodgers in the twelfth round of the 2017 MLB draft) looked very good in his return to the rubber after giving up just 2-earned runs on 3-hits and 3-walks with 2-strikeouts through 3 1/3 innings.
Heredia led off the next half-inning with a triple off the center field wall, then scored on an infield ground-out by Rodriguez to cut the Hot Rods lead to 5-4 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Hamilton (3.52 ERA) gave up 2-runs on 2-hits through 1 2/3 innings of relief, before he was replaced by reliever Marshall Kasowski to start the sixth inning.
The two anchor's of the Great Lakes bullpen were impressive as Kasowski (2.41 ERA) relented just a hit and 2-walks, while striking out 4-batters through 2 2/3 innings of relief, before Zabala (2-1, 6.00 ERA) secured his second win of the season after allowing just 1-walk, with 3-strikeouts to closeout the final 2 1/3 innings.
Schryver (0-2, 3.31 ERA) was tagged with his second loss of the season for the Hot Rods after giving up the run (which was unearned on his wild pitch) on 1-walk with 1-strikeout through 2/3 of an inning, as Bowling Green reliever Riley O'Brien (BS1, 1.93 ERA) was charged with the blown save after giving up 1-run on 1-hit and 2-walks, with 4-strikeouts through 3-innings of relief, while starter Drew Strotman (3.40 ERA) gave up 2-earned runs on 4-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 5-batters through 6-innings.
Heredia finished just a double shy of hitting for the cycle, going 3 for 4 with 3-RBI's and 2-runs scored to lead the Loons offense.
The Loons and Hot Rods will be right back at it at 10:35 am for a 'School Kids Day' game at Dow Diamond on Tuesday morning.
Video of Starling Heredia's 2 out solo home run to force extra innings in the bottom of the ninth, along with video of Mitchell Hansen scoring the game winning run on a wild pitch: