Locos look to make playoff run

·5 min read

Jul. 24—LIMA — If it sounds like the Lima Locos have been here before, they have.

For the second straight year the Locos made a late charge to reach the playoffs.

Last year the Locos won their final 12 regular-season games to qualify for the postseason.

This year, after being 10-13 on July 1, they went 11-4 the rest of the way to reach the Great Lakes Collegiate League playoffs.

The Locos (21-17), who finished second in the North Division, will meet first-place Michigan (23-15) in the best-of-three GLCL semifinals.

Game 1 is at the Michigan Monarchs' Siena Heights University at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday.

Game 2 is at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Lima's Simmons Field.

Game 3, if necessary, is back at Siena Heights at 7:05 p.m. Thursday.

The last year the Locos didn't make the playoffs was 2010.

Back on July 1, the Locos had just lost nine out 10 and were 10-13.

"Honestly, the way we were losing, we had one or two innings that were tough," Locos coach Matt Furuto said. "But I knew the potential that we had.

"They kept playing and we were able to get better pitching performances and were able to hit when we needed to. ... It feels good."

One player who cranked it up in the second half was shortstop Ty Gill (Purdue), who entered Sunday's games leading the league in hitting at .375.

He also leads the league in walks (30) and is second in stolen bases (25).

Over Gill's last 15 games, he's hit .464 (26 for 56).

Another key to the offense has been Locos veteran first baseman Derrick (D.J.) Jackson (Jacksonville State), who is hitting .377 with two home runs and 13 RBI over his 53 at-bats since joining the team on June 26.

"They turned it on," Furuto said of Gill and Jackson. "When we needed something, we had guys we could trust. And we had guys at the bottom of the order step up.

"D.J. is always dangerous. When he is confident, he can be really good."

Gill's 25 stolen bases is tied for second most in Locos' history with Mike Mulligan. Tyler Grogg has the team and league stolen-base record with 41.

"Ty has the ability and when he gets going, he can be really good," Furuto said. "He does a lot of good things. He's gets on base and is able to run."

Second baseman Jayden Davis (Samford) has been steady all summer. He's hitting .337 with a team-high seven doubles and 19 RBI. Davis was still playing high school ball in Tennessee this past spring and was first team all-state.

Outfielder Bryant Herring (Kennesaw State) is hitting .329 with four doubles and a team-high 21 RBI.

Third baseman Brennen Norton (Jacksonville State) is batting .304 with six doubles and 16 RBI.

Catcher/designated hitter Isaiah Velazco (California) is hitting .300 with 12 RBI.

First baseman Cade Sadler (Kennesaw State) is hitting .280 with 15 RBI.

Overall, the Locos lead the league in hitting (.280) and on-base percentage (.394).

The Locos rank seventh in team ERA at 4.90.

Right-hander Carter Doorn (Purdue) leads the league in ERA at 0.88. He's 2-1 and has 47 strikeouts in 41 innings.

Doorn's fastball sits between 88 to 90, but has gotten it up to 92 to 94. He also throws multiple off-speed pitches for strikes.

Doorn pitches for Furuto's brother, Dan, who is an assistant coach at Purdue.

"He didn't get the opportunity (at Purdue) as a freshman this year, but I knew he had potential," Matt Furuto said. "He's done a great job.

"I've seen him 94 and when he is 88 to 90 and mixes in the off-speed pitches, he's really tough."

The bullpen has also improved in the second half with the emergence of Patrick Dillon (Toledo/Findlay), Caden Kline (Toledo/Defiance) and Anthony Kyle (Findlay/Perrysburg).

Kyle joined the team in late June and is 1-0 with a 0.90 over 20 innings. He has 27 strikeouts.

Dillon is 3-1 with a 2.28. He has 42 strikeouts in 23 innings.

Kline (5.90) has thrown six shutout innings in a row. He has 30 strikeouts in 21 innings.

Furuto added that Kyle, Dillon and Kline could also start a playoff game.

Left-hander Miller Riggins (Kennesaw State) is slated to start Game 1 on Tuesday.

Riggins is 2-0 with a 2.01. He has 32 strikeouts in 22 innings.

Doorn is penciled in to start Game 2 at home on Wednesday.

Michigan owns a 5-1 record against the Locos this summer.

Outfielder Reece Longstaff leads the Monarchs in hitting at .325 with three home runs and 14 RBI.

Infielder Hayden Jatczak is batting .303 with two home runs and 15 RBI.

Outfielder Seth Gergely is hitting .290 with 21 RBI.

Nick Powers is the Monarchs' top starter and is 0-0 with a 0.94. Keaton Ballard is 4-0 with a 3.89.

The last time the Monarchs faced the Locos was on June 30.

"When we last played them, everything was going right for them and nothing was going right for us," Furuto said. "If we play good baseball, we can play with any team. I'm excited for the challenge."