Captains break three-game streak with 10-6 win
CEDAR RAPIDS- The Lake County Captains (15-14) were able to break free of a three game losing skid on Sunday afternoon with a 10-6 victory over the Cedar Rapids Kernels (9-20).
Felix Sterling (4-8, 6.07) broke from his recent role as the long man in the Lake County bullpen to toe the rubber as manager Dave Wallace’s starting pitcher on the afternoon. Wallace’s decision to hand the pill to Sterling proved to be just what the doctor ordered for a Captains team that had been scuffling on this road swing.
The big right-hander did more than answer the bell in his return to the starting rotation en route to picking up his fourth victory of the season on Saturday afternoon. He held the Kernels to four runs, although just two were earned, on four hits over five innings of work before giving way to the bullpen.
The Lake County bullpen was solid in relief of their former long man. Louis Head gave up two runs on two hits and struck out three before giving way to closer Jeff Johnson in the ninth. Although it was a non-save situation, Johnson came in and effectively shut the door on any hope of a Cedar Rapids rally and, by doing so, put the Captains back in the win column for the first time in four contests.
However, it was not just the pitching staff getting the job done on Saturday. The Lake County offense arose from its recent slumber, using 14 hits to put a whopping ten runs on the board.
The Captains’ offense wasted no time against Cedar Rapids starter Aaron Meade (2-2, 3.40) thanks largely in part to shortstop Todd Hankins. The second batter of the game, Hankins rolled his ninth double of the season inside the first base bag. With Jordan Smith at the plate, the shortstop then bolted for third base, sliding in safely with his 26th stolen base of the year. A throwing error by catcher Zach Wright allowed Hankins to trot home with the first run of the ballgame.
Wright would atone for his fielding blunder in the bottom of the second inning when he drove his sixth big fly of the season over the fence in left field to put the Kernels ahead 2-1.
Yet, Lake County would quickly strike back in the top of the third to tie the game at 2-2 on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Jerrud Sabourin.
The Captains’ offense was at it again in the top of the fourth inning, but this time, Lake County’s bats propelled the team to a lead it would not relinquish.
Consecutive singles by designated hitter Bryson Myles and catcher Alex Lavisky to open the frame brought third baseman Leonardo Castillo to the dish. Although his batting average resides under the Mendoza Line, the fans in Cedar Rapids would not have known after watching his at-bat against Meade.
The third baseman finished the battle by lining a single off the pitcher that scored Myles and sent Lavisky to third. After left fielder Zach MacPhee grounded out, second baseman Jose Ramirez continued the hit parade with a single of his own to score Lavisky. Hankins followed with an RBI groundout to end the scoring for the Captains in the fourth and end the afternoon for Kernels’ starter Aaron Meade. When the hurler walked off the hill, he found his team trailing 5-2 to their opponents from Lake County.
Sterling ran into trouble in the bottom of the frame when he loaded the bases with nobody out. However, facing ninth-place hitter Caleb Bushyhead, the reliever induced what looked to be a double play ball to short. Yet, Todd Hankins threw the ball wild of second base, allowing a run to score. A sacrifice fly inched the Kernels within 5-4, but Sterling escaped the jam with no further damage.
As they had all afternoon, the Captains had an answer for the Cedar Rapids fifth inning when they came to the plate in the top of the sixth. The response came in the form of a leadoff home run by Lavisky, his seventh of the year. The solo shot was his 34th RBI of the season and capped a 3-5 day for the Lakewood, OH. native that has battled for playing time all season on a Lake County squad that is crowded behind the dish.
The inning was capped by the “Milk Man,” Jordan Smith, who was recently named the Indians’ Minor League Player of the Week. With two runners aboard, the right fielder pulled a triple to right field to put Lake County ahead 8-4.
The Captains would add single runs in the top of the seventh and ninth innings en route to the 10-6 victory. Center fielder Luigi Rodriguez continued his recent power surge by smacking his ninth home run of the season into the left field seats in the seventh. In the ninth, Bryson Myles notched his 37th RBI when he doubled over the head of the center fielder to score Sabourin, who also doubled in the inning.
The Captains and Kernels will square off in the rubber match of this three game set on Monday afternoon at 1:05 pm. The Captains will send Shawn Morimando (4-2, 3.55) to the mound hoping to finish this six game road swing .500. The Kernels will counter by giving the ball to left-hander Eswarlin Jimenez (3-4, 4.16).