Midland, Mich. – The Lansing Lugnuts entered the final day of the half a win over the Great Lakes Loons and a West Michigan loss in order to claim the first-half championship. They got both.
Fort Wayne's 8-4 victory over West Michigan opened the door for the Lugnuts, who kicked it in by thrashing the Loons 18-6 at Dow Diamond. The combination gave the Lugnuts their first outright division championship in any half since 1999.
The Loons and Lugnuts battled to a six all tie through seven innings. But it was in the eighth that the Lugnuts were able to explode for 11 runs, taking firm control of the game and the division title.
Lansing loaded the bases for Raul Barron, who drove a single off of the left field wall that plated Yohermyn Chavez making it a 7-6 game. John Tolisano followed that with a two-run single to open the lead to 9-6. Matt Liuzza then smacked his second homer of the day, a three-run shot that left the entire ballpark and put Lansing up 12-6.
The Lugnuts continued to pour it on when Mike McDade blasted a two-run opposite field homer that made it 14-6. Lansing added three more runs in the inning to take a 17-6 lead after eight frames.
Lansing's offense, which had been in a week long slumber, came out swinging early in the contest as they scored a run in each of the first four innings. However the pitching staff could not hold the lead, as they twice blew a two-run advantage for the Lugnuts in the fifth and seventh innings.
Every Lugnut reached base and scored at least one run in the game. Eric Eiland reached seven times and crossed the dish on five occassions.
Liuzza finished the game 4-for-6 with two home runs and five RBI.
Tolisano also a huge day as he had a homer in the sixth and also drove in five runs.
The Lugnuts tied a team record with 22 hits and five homers in the contest. They also set a season high with 18 runs.
Edgar Estanga (7-1) got the win in relief for Lansing although he allowed two runs, one earned, in one inning of work.
Miguel Sanfler (1-2) took the loss for the Loons after giving up four runs in one inning of releif. All 18 runs were earned against the Great Lakes pitching staff.
Lansing (39-31) will now take three days off as the Midwest League holds the annual All-Star Game. This year's festivities will take place at Dow Diamond on Tuesday night. The game can be heard in Lansing on WQTX Oldies 92.1 FM beginning at 6:55 p.m.
The Lugnuts will return to Midwest League action on Thursday when they open the second-half against the Fort Wayne Wizards (37-33) at Oldsmobile Park. It will be a Labatt Blue Light Thirsty Thursday, with beer and soda on-sale for $2. The game will also be the third installment of the WILX Summer Entertainment Series which presents Reggy! The Purple Party Dude. First pitch for the game is set for 7:05 p.m.