BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – In the first round of the 2018 Midwest League playoffs, the Bowling Green Hot Rods tipped the Lansing Lugnuts in two straight one-run games on their way to their first league championship.
In their first meeting of 2019, the Bowling Green Bootleggers (12-9) – a nickname used on Thursday home games only – were pressed to the limit before eking out a 6-5 victory over the Lugnuts (10-10) on Thursday night at Bowling Green Ballpark
The game ended dramatically: Lansing speedster Reggie Pruitt stood at third base representing the game-tying run, with Bowling Green reliever Chris Muller (Save, 2) dealing a 3-2 pitch to Jordan Groshans, the league’s leading hitter entering the day. Groshans grounded back to the mound, wrapping up the Bootleggers’ victory.
18-year-old Bowling Green phenom Wander Franco went 3-for-4 with two solo homers and an RBI single off the left field wall to bolster the Bootleggers’ offense. Meanwhile, starter Caleb Sampen (Win, 2-1) fanned nine while allowing one run on four hits in six innings – but the Lugnuts struck back against the Bootleggers’ bullpen.
Down 5-1 entering the seventh, Hagen Danner tripled and scored on a D.J. Neal sacrifice fly and Otto Lopez added an RBI double to pull the Nuts within two.
After Franco’s second homer of the night rebuilt the Bootleggers’ lead to 6-3, Jake Brodt doubled and scored on a Johnny Aiello RBI grounder in the eighth to again cut the deficit to two.
In the ninth, singles by Neal and Pruitt kept hope alive for the visitors. Muller tossed two wild pitches, bringing in Neal to shave the Bowling Green lead to one, but the Lugnuts came up 90 feet short.
Lansing starter Fitz Stadler (Loss, 1-2) worked five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks while striking out three. Cobi Johnson pitched the three innings in relief, waiting out a 38-minute rain delay in the sixth, and gave up two runs on three hits and two walks, striking out three.
In defeat, Pruitt finished 2-for-4 with an RBI single and a walk, extending his consecutive on-base streak to 18 games.
The second game of the four-game series will see a pair of Fort Myers area pitchers duel: Nuts right-hander Josh Winckowski (1.42 ERA) against Bowling Green lefty Shane McClanahan (4.70). First pitch is at 7:35 p.m. Eastern, 6:35 p.m. local time.
The Nuts return to Cooley Law School Stadium on Tuesday, April 30th, opening a six-game homestand against Wisconsin and Beloit. To purchase tickets and live the Lug Life, visit lansinglugnuts.com or call (517) 485-4500.