By: Chad Hillman
Canadian Baseball Network
To say the start of the Midwest League season has been a challenge for Lansing would be an understatement. If you count the Lugnuts' scheduled exhibition game against Michigan State last week, four of their first five contests were cancelled.
Temperatures and conditions outside were more conducive for games that include sticks and pucks rather than one with bats and balls. Even the game that was played prior to Monday’s home opener occurred in conditions that at best could be described as extremely miserable. Though the temperature of Monday’s game was a chilly 44°F (~7°C) at first pitch, the sunshine that bathed the field at Cooley Law School Stadium reminded everyone that spring was right around the corner and took some of the chill out of the air.
Francisco Rios was given the starting nod for the home opener against the visiting Dayton Dragons (affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds). Rios struggled with his command early as he walked the Dragons lead-off hitter and promptly committed a balk to move him over to second. That base runner later scored on an RBI single from cleanup hitter Narciso Crook. That was the only run that Rios would surrender as he settled in and found his groove, throwing 54 pitches over three innings. When he hit his spots, he was rather effective as he only allowed one run on three hits over his three innings of work. The walk of the lead-off man was the only one he allowed.
From an offensive stand point, Gunnar Heidt provided the fireworks as he hit an opposite field two-run homer to right to give Lansing the lead in the third and later swiped a bag.
Lansing left-hander Angel Perdomo came on in relief of Rios in the fourth and worked three very effective innings of his own. Perdomo struck out five (three of which were swinging) in his three innings of work.
Lansing maintained a 4-2 lead until the eighth inning when Dragon second baseman Shed Long blasted an absolute two run bomb to right field off of Connor Fisk to tie the game at 4 and for a short while, it appeared extra baseball may be on tap which given the number of games that Lansing has had to postpone at this point in the season would have been fitting.
In the bottom half of the eighth frame however, Lansing took the lead for good. Lane Thomas and Justin Atkinson led off with back to back doubles and give Lansing a 5-4 lead. Jake Anderson then singled to drive in Atkinson and give Lugnut pitcher Colton Turner an insurance run to work with in the ninth. Turner, allowed a lead off single in the ninth, but retired the next three hitters face to secure the 6-4 victory for Lansing and improve the Lugnuts record to 1-1 on the season.
FOR THE RECORD:
The Lansing offence collected 11 hits (four of which went for extra bases) on the night to go along with the six runs they scored. The 11 hits is impressive to me given the temperature as hitting a baseball may be about the last thing you want to do on a night with temperatures like Monday night.
As impressive as the offence was, the pitching was even more impressive. Lansing pitchers combined to strike out 13 Dayton hitters and only allowed seven hits.
Connor Fisk picked up the win as well as the blown save for Lansing to improve his record to 1-0 on the season while Colton Turner picked up the save.