Lugnuts Offense Remains Hot

Carnline was on fire Friday

It's 37 degrees outside, a stiff wind is blowing in from right field and there is a chance for snow flurries. This forecast can only mean one thing. It must be the start of baseball season in Lansing, Michigan. Despite the frigid forecast, the Lugnut bats continued to be hot as they defeated the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays for a second straight night by a score of 7-3.

"It's a mental thing." Lugnuts manager Ken Joyce stated when asked about the difference in the temperature from the 60 degree opening night. "It's a grind. Whether it's the weather, the conditions, the bus, the travel, all that stuff goes hand in hand and these guys have to handle it professionally".

Consider that message received as the weather seemed to have absolutely no effect on the line up.

The game started much the same way as the previous nights game for the Lugnuts as they would score three times in the bottom of the first inning. Chris Gutierrez would get things going offensively for Lansing as he would double down the right field line. Following a Jacob Butler walk, Joey Metropolous would come to the plate for an RBI opportunity as much like he did on opening night would deliver an RBI single that would score Gutierrez.

Teammate Brian Pettway finished what Metropolous started, as he doubled to score Butler and Metropolous, putting the Lugnuts up 3-0 after one.

The Devil Rays answered back with a two-run inning of their own in the second as Kristian Bell struggled through the inning. Garrett Groce led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a Rhyne Hughes single. Groce later scored on a Matt Devins double, while Hughes would score the second D-Rays run of the game on a wild pitch.

The score remained 3-2 until the fourth inning when Groce again led things off with a walk, and later scored his second run of the night on a single by D-Rays catcher Christian Lopez tying the score at three.

Much like the previous night however, Lansing would respond to the challenge as they scored three times in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jesus Gonzalez led the inning off with a double and advanced to third on a single by Sean Shoffit. Gonzalez would later score on a single by Chris Gutierrez and Shoffit would advance to home via a throwing error on Southwest Michigan right fielder Garrett Groce that sailed into the third base dugout allowing Gutierrez to advance to third. Gutierrez would score on a ground out to short by Jacob Butler.

Billy Carnline came on in relief of Kristian Bell in the fifth inning and pitched masterfully out of the pen. He tossed three innings of one hit ball while striking out four. The performance of the relief pitchers was often a sore spot with Joyce last season, however this is a new year and he could not say enough good things about the performance of his relief staff over these first two games.

"You've got Po-Hsuan Keng last night and Billy Carnline tonight. Not to mention those other two guys Berroa and Roy." stated Joyce. "Those guys that gave us those three innings in the middle though (Keng and Carnline), they were nice."

In total, Lansing relievers have allowed no runs on two hits and two walks in eight innings of work of these last two games.

For the record, Kristian Bell picks up his first victory of the season for the Lugnuts as he went five innings giving up three runs while scattering three hits and striking out five.

"I threw quite a few curveballs tonight, whether that was good or bad I still showed it, and I threw change ups in fast ball counts." stated Bell following the game when asked about his game plan.

With the victory, the Lugnuts improve to 2-0 on the season, while the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays fall to 0-2. The series will now switch venues as the two teams will continue their four game series on Saturday afternoon at 2:05. Russ Savickas will go to the mound for the Lugnuts while the Devil Rays will counter with RHP Wade Davis

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