MIDLAND, Mich. – Bust out those brooms, and keep them handy.
During what was perhaps the most dramatic moment of the season thus far, the Great Lakes Loons (53-49) grabbed an emotionally explosive 3-2 walk-off win in front of a packed house at Dow Diamond on Thursday night.
Great Lakes outfielder Alex Santana hit the game-winning RBI single up the middle during the bottom of the 9th inning scoring first baseman Justin Chigbogu and sending the crowd of more than 5,000 fans into instant frenzy while members of the Loons dugout poured onto the field in jubilation.
It was Santana’s first hit of the series.
“Their pitcher has a really good fastball. The best thing I could do was just try to send it right back up the middle,” Santana said. “Once I hit it, I was just screaming ‘Go Chiggy, Go!”
With the Loons down to their last out, Chigbogu tied the game one batter earlier on a clutch RBI double to left centerfield, evening the series finale at 2-2.
“I was just trying to relax myself and calm down in the moment,” Chigbogu said. “I wasn’t trying to let my emotions get the most of me. I trusted myself. It ended up being a great hit.”
The win completed a series sweep of the Cubs and improved Great Lakes to 5-1 during their last six games against South Bend.
A late defensive blunder gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead during the top of the 9th inning.
After five scoreless innings, South Bend finally pushed a run across on Loons relief pitcher Scott Griggs’ throwing error during the top of the 9th inning. Griggs (3-1) walked infielder David Bote to start the inning before an error by Loons catcher Julian Leon allowed Bote to advance to second base. Griggs earned the win while Cubs closer Alex Santana (0-1) took the loss.
Erick Castillo attempted to bunt Bote over to third base, but Griggs sent his throw clean passed second baseman Jimmy Allen, who was covering first base and couldn’t save a run from scoring.
The Cubs (45-56) scored their first run of the game on a solo home run to dead centerfield by Jesse Hodges. It was Hodges’ fifth home run of the season.
The home team managed their first run during the bottom of the 3rd inning.
Outfielder Federico Celli sent a deep fly ball off the right field wall and slid head first into third base with a triple to lead off the frame. Great Lakes leadoff man Michael Ahmed drove Celli home with an RBI single passed the shortstop to tie the game at a run apiece.
The Loons squandered several chances to take the lead before the Cubs eventually did.
Allen notched a two-out double down the left field line during the bottom of the 8th inning, but outfielder Alex Verdugo struck out looking to end the inning.
The Loons embark on a three-game road trip to Lake County before a day off on Monday and a trip back to Midland. First Half All-Star Grant Holmes (6-2, 2.78 ERA) gets the start for Great Lakes and will face Lake County starter Justus Sheffield (7-4, 4.40 ERA).
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