Special to the Herald
CLINTON — An RBI double by Garis Pena and a two-run homer by Jake Marisnick helped Lansing open a 4-0 lead, and a second RBI single by Pena and solo home run by Michael Crouse put the game out of reach as the Lugnuts defeated the Clinton LumberKings 7-2 on a sweltering Sunday afternoon for Midwest League baseball at Alliant Energy Field.
Coupled with an 8-5, 11-inning win Saturday night, the Lugnuts headed into this morning’s 10 o’clock “Pack the Park With Kids Day” looking for a three-game sweep in the series.
Pena doubled off the wall in left-center to score Bryson Namba, then scored on an unsuccessful double-play attempt as shortstop Anthony Phillips’ throw to first on Carlos Perez sailed wide of Tim Morris. That play kept the inning going, and the next batter, Marisnick, belted a two-run homer to the picnic tables in left to increase the lead to 4-0.
Clinton left-hander Anthony Fernandez pitched scoreless fourth and fifth innings and the Kings’ offense cut the deficit to 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth. Jetsy Extrano singled to left, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Phillips and scored on a line drive to right-center by Robbie Anston. Three batters later, Stefen Romero bounced a chopper past third baseman Oliver Dominguez to score Anston.
That was the end of the offense, however, as Lugnuts right-hander Casey Lawrence (7-8) ended the inning by getting Morris to ground out to first. Right-handers Dustin Antolin and Brandon Berl then combined on four scoreless innings of relief.
Fernandez (3-3) exited with runners at the corners in the sixth, and right-hander Jessie Nava yielded a single to Pena that scored Dominguez for a 5-2 Lansing lead. Nava allowed a run of his own in the eighth on a walk and RBI fielder’s choice by Bryson Namba, and right-hander Tyler Blandford gave up the solo home run to Crouse in the ninth.
Anston went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI for the LumberKings, while Romero went 1 for 4 with his team-lead-tying 37th RBI. Still, those efforts could not prevent Clinton’s fourth straight loss.
The LumberKings came within an inning of ending the skid Saturday night when a solo home run by Romero put them ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
But Lansing’s Perez tied the game with an RBI single in the top of the ninth and lifted the Lugnuts to the 8-5 win with another RBI single in the top of the 11th.
Perez went 4 for 6 with four RBIs.
An RBI double by Pena and a two-run single by Perez gave the Lugnuts a 3-0 lead on right-hander George Mieses in the second inning. Mieses recovered to allow just those three runs over six innings for his sixth quality start of the season.
The LumberKings tied the score in the fourth as singles by Carlos Ramirez and Romero and a walk drawn by Mike McGee loaded the bases. Tim Morris drove all three in with a triple over the head of center fielder Marisnick. Kalian Sams then singled to center to score Morris, giving the Kings a 4-3 lead. All four runs were earned for Lugnuts left-handed starter Egan Smith.
Right-hander Jonathan Arias worked a scoreless seventh inning but yielded a solo home run to Marcus Knecht to start the eighth, tying the score at 4-4. In the bottom of the inning, Romero blasted a two-out, two-strike pitch from right-hander Tyler Powell to the berm in left. His 10th home run of the season gave Clinton a 5-4 lead.
Right-hander Tyler Burgoon struck out Pena for the first out of the ninth inning, but a throwing error by third baseman Matt Browning put speedy outfielder Crouse on base with one out. A wild pitch moved Crouse to second base, and a hit-and-run single by Perez sent Crouse around to score the tying run.
John Hicks singled and Anthony Phillips walked with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Anston’s chopper found right-hander Shawn Griffith on the mound and ended that scoring chance.
In the bottom of the 10th, the LumberKings loaded the bases on Griffith as Ramirez singled, Romero was intentionally walked and Morris drew another walk. Sams worked the count to 3-2 and put the payoff pitch in play softly toward second baseman Matt Nuzzo, who fumbled with the ball but recovered to throw to first. The close call went against Sams and the Kings, ending the scoring chance and resulting in the ejection of Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca by base umpire Dustin Klinghagen.
Left-hander Jon Hesketh (0-1), activated a day earlier from the disabled list, came on to pitch for the first time since May 22. He started the 11th inning with a walk to Oliver Dominguez, gave up a single to Crouse and then allowed the game-winning single to Perez. K.C. Hobson added a two-run single to extend the lead to 8-5.