[Ed. note: Let’s welcome back Chad Hillman to Blue Jays from Away. He’ll be a regular contributor this year with his reports from Lansing. Follow him on Twitter @HillmanChad, whose Twitter profile picture is, awesomely, Humphrey the Camel from the Lugnuts’ now defunct “Hump Day” promotion. ]
Before I start my short report on the festivities in Lansing that occurred on Monday, I feel a short introduction is in order. My name is Chad Hillman and I will be assisting Jay Blue and the Blue Jays From Away team with their Blue Jays minor league coverage this season. Since I am located in the Lansing area, I will have a special focus on Lugnuts. If you’re a loyal reader of the site, you may have seen some of my guest pieces that have occurred in the past. I hope to bring you scouting reports, trends, the occasional interview, and anything else that may be of interest to let you know what is going on down in the Midwest League farm. If you’ve read me here or on some of the other blogs I have contributed to in the past, you should have an idea of what to expect. Enough of the chit chat, onto the baseball!
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. [Ed. note: I can speak from experience. I was supposed to attend three of the Lugnuts’ first four regular season games which, of course, were the the three that didn’t get played.]
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 would later on an RBI single from cleanup hitter Narciso Crook. That would be the only run that Rios would surrender as he settled in and found his groove, throwing 54 pitches over 3.0 innings. When he hit his spots, he was rather effective as he only allowed 1 run on 3 hits over his 3.0 innings of work. The walk of the lead-off man would be the only one he would allow.
From an offensive stand point, Gunnar Heidt provided the fireworks as he would hit an opposite field two run homer to right to give Lansing the lead in the third and would later swipe a bag.
Lansing left hander Angel Perdomo would come on in relief of Rios in the fourth and would work three very effective innings of his own. Perdomo would strike out five (three of which were swinging) in his three innings of work.
Lansing would maintain 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 would take the lead for good. Lane Thomas and Justin Atkinson would lead off with back to back doubles and give Lansing a 5-4 lead. Jake Anderson would then single to drive in Atkinson to give Lugnut pitcher Colton Turner an insurance run to work with in the ninth. Turner, allowed a lead off single in the ninth, but would retire 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 offense 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 offense was, the pitching was even more impressive. Lansing pitchers combined to strike out 13 Dayton hitters and only allowed 7 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.
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