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Captains top Lugnuts late, 5-4

Luigi Rodriguez drives in game-winner as Captains start out on right foot

Captains top Lugnuts late, 5-4
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EASTLAKE – The Lake County Captains kicked off the 2013 season with a 5-4 win over the Lansing Lugnuts, thanks to some timely offense and speed on the bases.

Right-hander Luis DeJesus took the bump first for the Captains to counter Lansing’s Javier Avenado. Avenado is a big right-hander whom the Blue Jays organization picked from the minor league Rule 5 draft back in 2012.

DeJesus was the Indians’ 11th round pick in the 2011 draft. He had an impressive season last year with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and possesses a fastball, slider, change-up arsenal.

The Lugnuts struck first in the top of the second inning. First baseman Balbino Fuenmayor led off the inning with a solo shot over the left field wall for Classic Park’s first home run of the season. DeJesus rebounded with composure though, as he struck out right fielder Chris Hawkins and retired the next two batters on a groundout and foul out.

The Captains responded in the following inning as second baseman Robel Garcia hit a one-out single to right. With two out, a throwing error during a pickoff attempt by Lugnuts’ catcher Santiago Nessy sailed into right field, allowing Garcia to advance to second. After shortstop Dorssys Paulino drew a walk, another error struck as Lansing shortstop Emilio Guerrero fumbled a ground ball, allowing right fielder Luigi Rodriguez to reach. The blunders continued for the Lugnuts as a wild pitch allowed Garcia to score, tying the game at 1-1.

DeJesus fanned the first two batters he faced in the fifth inning, but Guerrero doubled a line drive to center and scored as left fielder Ronnie Melendez singled to center to give the Lugnuts the edge again.

DeJesus seemed to run out of gas a bit as Lansing plated two more in the sixth. Second baseman Christian Lopes led off with a double to center and Fuenmayor drew a walk. A wild pitch pushed both runners into scoring position, but DeJesus managed to force a pop out for the first out. That was the final out DeJesus converted as he was replaced with righty Jack Wagoner.

Nessy greeted Wagoner the hard way, as he sent a fly ball deep to right for a ground-rule double that scored both runners, bumping the Lugnuts to a 4-1 lead.

The Captains maintained their resiliency in their half of the sixth though as Daniel Norris replaced Avendano. Luigi Rodriguez met Norris with a single to center and catcher Eric Haase sent a triple deep to right to plate Rodriguez.

Lake County tipped the scales in their own favor in the seventh inning as centerfielder LeVon Washington led off with a walk. Wil Browning entered the game to pitch for the Lugnuts, and with one out, Washington advanced to second on a wild pitch. Luigi Rodriguez singled to right to score Washington to tie the game, and a throwing error on behalf of the right fielder allowed Rodriguez to advance to third. After first baseman Nelson Rodriguez drew a walk, another wild pitch proved costly as Rodriguez scored to give the Captains the go-ahead run.

The 5-4 advantage was all the Captains required as Louis Head replaced Wagoner in the eighth. Head made quick work of the Lugnuts as he struck out two and forced a pop out.

Head gave way to Felix Sterling for the ninth. Sterling’s struggles of the past were vacant as he relinquished a lead-off single, but then struck out the side to preserve the Captains 5-4 win.

Captains’ manager Scooter Tucker was happy to get the first win out of the way and noted the team’s tough attitude through all nine innings. “It’s a great feeling, more so for those guys because early in the game it didn’t look like we had much going offensively and it was going to be a tough night, and they just kept playing hard,” he said. “They kept doing little things, kept getting on, kept moving around, being aggressive when they had the opportunity and fortunately, it worked out.”

Next, the Captains send their only southpaw starter, Ryan Merritt, to the hill to counter Lansing’s Taylor Cole. Merritt was the Indians’ 16th draft pick in 2011.

Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.

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