By Ryan Hines
Grand Lake didn't need much offense on Monday night with Keegan Laycock on the mound for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League opener at Jim Hoess Field for the Mariners.
Laycock threw seven shutout innings and reliever Jeff Loveys added two scoreless innings as Grand Lake defeated Lake Erie, 1-0.
The Mariners, who went 3-1 in the first four nonleague games of the summer, are now 4-1 on the early campaign and Lake Erie drops to 1-3.
It's a good thing that Laycock and Loveys shut down the Monarchs' offense because the Mariners only managed two hits off Lake Erie starter Clint Crosier.
The first Grand Lake hit led to the Mariners' only run of the game. Mariners lead-off man Ryan Keena singled to start the game and moved to third base when Crosier threw wildly to first base on a pick-off attempt. Scott Billak then grounded out to short enabling the speedy Keena to score the lone run of the game.
"They tried to snap-throw to first base to try and keep Keena close at first base and it turned into a two-base error and we were able to bring the run home," said Stafford. "I heard one of the coaches say that he (Keena) has wheels so they know that he's dangerous on the basepaths. One mistake cost them the game."
With a one-run lead, Laycock and Loveys did the rest. Laycock allowed just three hits in his seven innings of work with six strikeouts to get the win while Loveys gave up three hits and struck out two to get the save.
Lake Erie had three solid chances to get on the scoreboard only to come away empty on each of the three opportunities.
In the third and eighth innings, the Monarchs had the bases loaded but were unable to come away with a clutch hit and in the sixth inning, Lake Erie stranded two baserunners. In all, Lake Erie left nine runners on base, including six that were in scoring position.
"I tell you what, Keegan pitched his butt off out there tonight," lauded Grand Lake manager Mike Stafford. "He went out there for seven innings, threw strikes and did his job. Then Loveys comes in and did his job as well. From a pitching standpoint, we couldn't get much better because I thought that both of the guys did a great job for us.
"When the going got tough, they bared down," added Stafford. "They made good pitches to get out of jams and let the defense do the job behind them (no errors for Mariners). When a pitcher has confidence in the defense behind him, then that gives the pitcher more confidence as well.
"I felt pretty good out there, especially for the first five innings and I just tried to stay focused and keep pitching my game once they got some runners on base," said Laycock, who played last summer for the Lima Locos. "They had a couple of innings where they had runners on and I needed a popup or a strikeout and we were able to get the outs to get out of the innings without allowing any runs."
The Mariners never threatened to score after picking up a run in the first inning but Grand Lake assistant coach Scott French saw improvement in the hitters' approach as the game wore on.
"Their guy must have been slippery out there because we couldn't get a ball in the air in the early going," said Mariners assistant coach Scott French, who handles most of the offensive coaching for Grand Lake. "I think that we made some adjustments as the game went on and got more of the barrel of the bat on the ball, but we hit the ball right at them. We're hitting the ball really well before the national anthem and now we just need to carry that over to after the national anthem."
The Mariners continue their current six-game homestand tonight as Grand Lake welcomes the defending GLSCL regular season champion and rival Lima Locos for a single game with a 7:15 p.m. start. Grand Lake will then hit the road for a single game at Lake Erie on Wednesday before returning home on Thursday for another five-game homestand.
NOTES: Maria Stein native and Ohio State freshman All-American Cory Luebke is the lone player on the Mariners roster yet to report. Luebke will join the Mariners on Saturday after attending to some family issues. ... Former Major League pitcher Doug Bair will be throwing the ceremonial first pitch tonight prior to the game against Lima. Bair is a 15-year pro who appeared with seven teams, winning world series titles with Detroit and St. Louis.