GENEVA – In the debut of Juan Carlos Paniagua for the Cougars, another familiar result as the Great Lakes Loons jumped in front early and never looked back in a 6-2 series-opening win on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
Paniagua (0-1), who had trouble getting back into the U.S. this season because of visa issues worked around a couple of baserunners in the top of the first before the Loons (43-53, 16-10) grabbed the lead in the top of the second with two runs. Brandon Dixon singled to start the frame and scored on a bases-loaded walk to James Baldwin. Jeremy Rathjen was hit by a pitch and came across after a double play ball from Leo Rodriguez.
Great Lakes took advantage of an error in the top of third to take a 4-0 lead. Corey Seager drew a walk to leadoff before stealing second and advancing to third on an Oliver Zapata error. Brandon Dixon's groundout to short scored Seager while Aarom Miller came home on a Rathjen base hit.
Paniagua only lasted 2.1 innings while walking four and coughing up three runs (two earned). Justin Amlung also surrendered three runs in his 3.2 innings of relief as the Loons were up by six. Chris Anderson (1-0) limited the Cougars (35-55, 5-19) to just two singles in five shutout innings.
Willson Contreras finally put the Cougars on the board in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run off Arismendy Ozoria. Kevin Encarnacion followed with another solo homer to pull the Cougars within four, but Encarnacion popped out to end an eighth-inning threat with the bases loaded against Craig Stem (S, 11). Stem recorded the game's final four outs.
The Cougars and Loons play the second of their three-game set tonight with a 6:30 first pitch from Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Right-hander Jose Rosario (0-5) starts for the Cougars against lefty Tom Windle (0-0)