The Loons kicked off their home season opener on Thursday against the Fort Wayne TinCaps at DOW Diamond. The sun was shining, giving the players 65 degree weather, 15 mph wind out to left field and a crowd of 3,765.
The TinCaps proved to give the Loons a hard time at bat, only allowing two runs, both in the ninth inning. "They were a better ball club tonight, they pitched better, they hit better and they coached better," said manager Razor Shines. "We're an aggressive club; we're going to live by it and we're going to die by it."
The Loons managed to get four hits before the ninth inning, but no runs. Pitching from starter Angel Sanchez became inconsistent in the third and fourth innings. Sanchez was pulled after giving up two solo home runs in the fourth.
"He lost his command in the third or the fourth, he gave up two in the third and three in the fourth," said Shines. "I think his command wasn't what he wanted to be but he battled through it and it is going to happen, I don't care who the pitcher is."
The 18-year-old right-hander Zachary Bird from Mississippi entered the game as a relief pitcher. Bird allowed no hits and struck out two before he was replaced by Scott Griggs in the eighth.
"Bird and Griggs did an outstanding job. Bird didn't have his best stuff but Griggs…threw the ball well," said Shines. "His velocity was good and he showed a really good breaking ball and we are satisfied with what he did."
The Loons fought back in the ninth. Griggs struck three TinCaps out with fastballs up to 96 mph and breaking balls around 79 mph. The Loons knocked in two runs late in the ninth with the help of Malcolm Holland stealing third and coming home on awild pitch. Unfortunately, the late game heroics weren't enough when the TinCaps called Roman Madrid to close out of the game.
"We're going to lose some games but we're going to win a lot. We'll be back everyday with intensity, ready to play," said right fielder Jeremy Rathjen.
The Loons look to bounce back from the season opener loss on Friday against the TinCaps once again in the second of their four game series.