The 2017 Great Lakes Loons (69-70) had a chance to become the first Loons team since 2011 to finish with a winning record, however, the Lake County Captains managed just a little bit more offense, scoring at least 1-run or more in each of the final six consecutive innings in a gut-wrenching 10-8 Great Lakes loss to the Captains at Dow Diamond this afternoon.
“It's definitely tough, and I thought, overall, our team really fought their butt's off,” Loons skipper Jeremy Rodriguez said following the game. “It's hard to find that in a team, especially at the end of the year when they're not playing for a playoff spot.”
“I think, for these guys to keep fighting and to just play for themselves, and to play for the names on the back and the names on front of their jersey's, it was tremendous to see,” Rodriguez continued. “these guys showed a lot of heart throughout the whole year, and it definitely showed today.”
The Captains managed to get to Great Lakes' late-inning reliever Colby Nealy, who had replaced James Carter to start the eighth inning, when Lake County right fielder Conner Capel led off with a walk and was driven in on an RBI-single by Trenton Brooks to give the Captains an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth inning.
Lake County's 2017 MWL home run leader, Emmanuel Tapia, added to the Captains' lead with a 2-run home run (his league leading 29th HR of the season) off Nealy for a 10-7 lead in the top of the ninth.
Loons starter Melvin Jimenez looked great early in the game, putting up zeroes, with 4-strikeouts through the first 3-innings, however, he was replaced by reliever Willian Soto to start the fourth inning, when the Captains would kick off a six consecutive inning stretch scoring at least 1-run or more.
Lake County had jumped on Soto for a 1-0 lead when second baseman Alexis Pantoja singled to lead off the top of the fourth inning, and advanced to third on another single by DH Li-Jen Chu, before he scored on an infield grounder for a 1-0 Captains lead midway through the fourth.
The Captains exploded for another 3-runs in the top half of the fifth when center fielder Gabriel Mejia drove in a run with an RBI-double, before Luke Wakamatsu (12) belted his twelfth home run of the season to give the Captains a 4-0 lead midway through five innings.
Soto (3.48 ERA) was replaced by Loons reliever James Carter to start the sixth after giving up 3-earned runs (1-unearned) on 5-hits, with 2-strikeouts following his 2-innings of relief.
The rain played in the Loons' favor, helping to get 3-runs back in the bottom half of the fifth when Cody Thomas reached on a bloop single (which was hard to field due to the heavy rain at the time) then moved to third when the Lake County right fielder lost a Nick Yarnall fly ball in the rain and air-mailed the throw, before Stevie Berman's sac fly RBI drove in Thomas to make it a 3-1 game with just 1-out in the inning.
Moises Perez and Saige Jenco followed with back to back RBI-double's to drive in Yarnall and Perez for the other 2-runs to get the Loons to within 1-run of the Captains (4-3) after 5-innings.
The Captains added to its lead when Chu, Tapia, and Capel started off the sixth with back to back to back singles to load the bases, as a passed ball allowed Chu to score, before Tapia was driven in on a sac fly RBI from Logan Ice for a 6-3 Lake County lead midway through six.
The Loons' bats came alive with 3-doubles and a Triple in the bottom half of sixth inning after Cristian Santana reached on a lead off walk and moved to third on a double off the bat of Jeren Kendall, then scored on an infield ground-out RBI by Starling Heredia, before Thomas drove in Kendall with an RBI-double (the second of the inning) to close Lake County's lead to 6-5 with 1-out in the inning.
Yarnall followed by driving in Thomas with an RBI-double, the Loons' third double of the inning to tie the game at 6-runs apiece, before Perez drove him in with an RBI-triple to give the Loons a 7-6 lead through six innings.
Lake County answered yet again in the top of the seventh when Mejia led off with a single, then stole second, before he was driven in on an RBI-single by Pantoja to knot the game back up at 7-runs apiece midway through the seventh inning.
Carter (2.40 ERA) gave up 2-earned runs (1-unearned) on 5-hits, with 1-strikeout through 2-innings, while Nealy (0-1, 6.43 ERA) was charged with his first loss of the year after giving up 3-runs on 4-hits and 2-walks through the final 2-innings.
The Loons would manage 1-run in the bottom of the ninth when Kendall drove in Gavin Lux on an RBI-triple to make it a 10-8 game, however, that is how the game, and the Loons' 2017 season, would end.
Perez had a single, double, and a triple in his first three at bats, going 3 for 4 with 2-RBI's and 1-run scored, to end up a home run shy of hitting for a natural cycle to lead the Loons' offense today.
Thomas reached base four times today, finishing 3 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2-runs scored, ending the season on a very productive note.
“I think we did a great job as a team, going out there, competing and leaving it all out there,” Thomas said following the game. “The results weren't exactly what we wanted, but I think we went off on a good note. That last inning, we had a chance to win it and that's really all we can really ask for.”
Kendall finished 2 for 5 with an RBI and 1-run scored, while Jenco (double), Yarnall (double), and Heredia each had 1-hit apiece respectively for the Loons as well this afternoon.
The players and coaches will now head back to their respective homes and await word from the Dodgers for the next assignment, as some will return to the Loons next year, while some will be looking to advance in the Dodgers' system.