LANSING, Mich. – In his Midwest League debut, Ronny Brito raced home with the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the eighth on an error by pitcher Aaron Ochsenbein, and the Lansing Lugnuts (32-30, 64-67) pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Great Lakes Loons (34-28, 77-52) on Sunday afternoon at Cooley Law School Stadium.
The Lugnuts were held to four hits and one walk by three Loons pitchers, with 18 straight batters set down at one point from the first through the seventh innings – but two costly Great Lakes errors proved the difference.
Brito, a member of the Dodgers organization until January, when he was acquired via trade with Andrew Sopko in exchange for Russell Martin, led off the eighth against Zach Willeman (Loss, 3-7) with his first Midwest League hit, a single to left. Tanner Kirwer sacrificed him to second base, prompting the Loons to bring in Ochsenbein to face Otto Lopez, the league’s leading hitter. A wild pitch advanced Brito to third base. Lopez worked an 0-2 count to 3-2 before nubbing a Ochsenbein pitch back toward the mound. The right-hander muffed it as Brito slid across the plate.
The Loons threatened in the top of the ninth, placing runners at second and third with two outs against Midwest League Post-Season All-Star Cre Finfrock, but Finfrock struck out Leonel Valera to end the game, notching his league-leading 17th save.
The Nuts had grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning against Ryan Pepiot, thanks to an Otto Lopez leadoff double, a wild pitch, and a fielding error by second baseman Sam McWilliams on a Yorman Rodriguez grounder.
The Loons threatened often but were held off the scoreboard until a seventh-inning rally, stringing together four straight hits against Marcus Reyes (Blown Save, 2) and scoring two runs on a Brandon Lewis RBI double and a Matt Cogen RBI single for a 2-1 lead.
LJ Talley answered in the bottom of the seventh off Willeman with his fifth home run, a solo blast through a strong wind to right field, tying the game at 2-2.
Left-hander Brody Rodning (Win, 2-0) pitched a hitless eighth inning, walking one and striking out two, to set up the Lugnuts’ dramatics.
Lansing starter Troy Watson pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a no-decision, lowering his ERA to 3.22. The right-hander from Gunter, Tex., struck out five while allowing two hits, walking four, and hitting two batters with pitches.
The third game of the four-game series and seven-game homestand is on a Dollar Monday featuring $1 popcorn, $1 hot dogs, $1 ice cream sandwiches, $1 Miller High Life and $1 fountain drinks! Nuts right-hander Troy Miller (4.75 ERA) gets the start at 7:05 p.m., opposing Loons right-hander Stephen Kolek (4.74 ERA).
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.