MIDLAND, Mich. – On a chilly Opening Day at Dow Diamond, the Great Lakes Loons dropped the first game of the season to the Lansing Lugnuts, 12-1.
The Loons (0-1) were held to two hits against the Lugnuts (1-0) due to superb pitching from right-hander Yennsy Diaz (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who held a perfect game through five innings before allowing a double to Ramon Rodriguez.
“It’s always great to have an Opening Day,” said Loons manager John Shoemaker. “You don’t want to get beat 12-1 too often, but sometimes those are easier to take than a 2-1 loss.”
Lansing took no time finding the scoreboard, driving in two runs in the top of the first inning on RBIs from Ryan Noda and Kevin Smith. With Samad Taylor batting in the top of the second, the Lugnuts tacked on another run due to a passed ball by Rodriguez.
Max Gamboa (0-1, 2.25 ERA), the starter for the Loons, went 4.0 innings, allowing three runs on three hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. Of the three runs, just one was earned.
Following his RBI early in the game, Smith smacked a single to left field off right-hander Andre Scrubb, which pushed in two runs for a 5-0 Lansing lead in the top of the fifth.
Diaz was pulled from the game after 5.2 innings pitched. He allowed one run and piled up 10 strikeouts.
“It took us awhile to get something going,” Shoemaker said. “Diaz shut us down for about six innings, but we made some miscues on defense that could’ve kept the game closer.”
After the Lugnuts put another run on the board with Reggie Pruitt’s single to score Christian Williams, the Loons finally touched home plate. Zach McKinstry opened the bottom of the eighth with a six-pitch walk against right-hander Donnie Sellers and Brayan Morales capitalized, driving him in on a line drive single to right field, cutting Lansing’s lead to 6-1.
“It’s not easy playing in this type of weather,” Morales said. “We went out and battled. It’s a long season and we have to believe in ourselves.”
Great Lakes left-hander Devin Hemmerich loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the ninth. Smith picked up his third RBI on a throwing error to give Lansing a 7-1 edge.
Lansing scored five more runs in the final frame of the game for an 12-1 victory on RBIs from Pruitt and Chavez Young and Kevin Vicuna.
Great Lakes and Lansing will dual at Dow Diamond on Friday with right-hander Riley Ottesen starting on the hill for the Loons. The Lugnuts will counter with left-hander Zach Logue. Following Friday’s game, the teams head to Lansing to finish a four-game home-and-home series to start the season.
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