BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- The Bowling Green Hot Rods scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning to back Hopkinsville, Kentucky-native Easton McGee in a 12-5 win over the Lake County Captains on Monday night at Bowling Green Ballpark. The Hot Rods improved to 6-6 on the season ahead of Tuesday night’s middle game of the series, which will have a 6:35 p.m. first pitch.
Lake County wasted no time in taking the early lead as McGee’s first pitch of the game was smacked over the wall in left-center by Jose Fermin. The homer gave the Captains a quick 1-0 lead. McGee allowed a two-out single to Ruben Cardenas, but Chris Betts threw him out attempting to advance on a ball in the dirt to end the inning.
In the bottom of the first the Hot Rods got the run back and more against Lake County right-hander Luis Oviedo. After Wander Franco drew a one-out walk, Ford Proctor singled to right. Connor Hollis then doubled down the left field line, bringing home Franco. After the ball was mishandled in the outfield, Proctor motored home on the fielding error to give Bowling Green a 2-1 lead.
The Hot Rods continued to their opening rally against Oviedo and got the bullpen before the inning ended. After Grant Witherspoon walked, Betts unloaded on a 1-2 pitch from Oviedo and launched it 403 feet over the right field bullpen for a three-run homer that gave the Hot Rods a 5-1 lead. Still in the first, Jake Palomaki drew a walk and stole second, chasing the righty from the game. Zach Draper entered in relief and Bryce Brown beat out a chopper to short, with Palomaki hustling home from second to cap off a six-run first inning that put the Hot Rods up 6-1.
The Hot Rods extended that lead in the second with Draper still on the bump. Hollis and Witherspoon both singled with one out, putting runners on the corners. Betts followed with a ground ball to second for a force out on Witherspoon, but Betts beat out the throw to first to extend the inning and bring home Hollis. The fourth RBI of the night for Betts gave Bowling Green a 7-1 lead.
Lake County battled back in the third as Fermin singled with one out. After a fielder’s choice, Will Benson crushed a two-run homer off McGee to cut it to a four-run lead.
The Hot Rods’ lead stayed at 7-3 through the middle innings as McGee gave way to Steffon Moore in the sixth. Moore kept the Captains at bay by throwing scoreless sixth and seventh frames.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Hot Rods offense awoke once more. Betts reached on a dropped fly ball, then Palomaki walked with one out. Michael Smith cleared the bases with a two-out, two-run triple. Franco singled to left to plate Smith, giving Bowling Green a 10-3 lead.
Lake County chipped into the deficit in the eighth as Moore walked the bases loaded with one out. He gave way to Nick Sprengel, who allowed two inherited runners to score on an error, but eventually shut the door, keeping the Hot Rods in front 10-5.
The Hot Rods tacked on a pair in the bottom of the eighth as Witherspoon doubled, moved to the third on Betts’ single, then scored as the ball rolled away in the outfield. Betts advanced to third on the error and scored on Palomaki’s sacrifice fly to make it 12-5. Sprengel came back out and polished off the series-opening victory with a scoreless ninth.
McGee (1-0) earned his first win of the season by working 5.0 innings, allowing three runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out five hitters. Moore worked 2.1 innings, allowing two hits, two unearned runs with three strikeouts. Sprengel worked 1.1 scoreless innings to finish off the contest.