Lugnuts two-hit Hot Rods, 3-1

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Griffin Conine slammed his 17th home run of the year and Juan De Paula, Marcus Reyes and Cre Finfrock combined on a dominating pitching performance, helping the Lansing Lugnuts (20-21, 52-58) win the opener of a four-game series, 3-1, over the Bowling Green Hot Rods (24-17, 63-48) on Saturday night at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Five batters into the first inning, the Hot Rods had collected two hits and a walk against De Paula, taking a 1-0 lead on a two-out RBI single from Grant Witherspoon.

And then the home team’s offense went dark, like a light switch was flipped off. After Witherspoon’s single, the Hot Rods went 0-for-24 with a walk.

Starter De Paula set the tone. Coming off a nightmarish game against South Bend in which he had allowed 11 runs in 3 1/3 innings, De Paula responded with five frames against the Hot Rods, striking out two and allowing only one further runner – a two-out walk to Chris Betts in the fourth.

Reyes (Win, 7-1) followed with three perfect innings, facing the Hot Rods’ full starting nine and striking out five from the sixth through the eighth innings.

A Hunter Steinmetz RBI fielder’s choice tied the score at 1-1 off Bowling Green starter Easton McGee (Loss, 7-4) in the sixth.

One inning later, Conine turned on McGee’s first pitch of the seventh and walloped it over the Lugnuts’ bullpen for a 2-1 lead.

Gabriel Moreno added insurance with an RBI double to left field off reliever Chris Muller in the eighth inning, bringing in Otto Lopez for the final margin.

Finfrock locked down the win with a 1-2-3 ninth, with one strikeout, to notch his league-leading 13th save.

In the win, center fielder Reggie Pruitt went 2-for-2 with two singles and his league-leading 38th stolen base.

Right-hander Troy Watson (3.72 ERA) takes on Bowling Green right-hander Caleb Sampen (2.80) at 3:05 p.m. Eastern / 2:05 p.m. local on Sunday afternoon.

The Nuts return to Cooley Law School Stadium for a three-game series with the South Bend Cubs from August 7-9, capped off by LAFCU Fireworks on Friday, August 9th. To live the Lug Life and purchase tickets, visit lansinglugnuts.com, call (517) 485-4500 or come to the Cooley Law School Stadium box office at 505 E. Michigan Ave. in downtown Lansing.