Captains win fourth straight with a walkoff, 9-8
EASTLAKE- The Lake County Captains (13-11) swept the Beloit Snappers (10-14) out of Classic Park on Monday night in walk-off fashion by a score of 9-8. Pinch runner Todd Hankins came around to score the winning run on a wild pitch by Snapper reliever Corey Williams in the bottom of the ninth inning. The victory was Lake County’s fourth in a row, giving the team its longest winning streak since winning five straight May 12-May 16.
For Hankins, and the Captains, it was the little things that paid big dividends on Monday evening. Hankins came on to pinch run for third baseman Leonardo Castillo, who led off the bottom of the ninth by reaching on an error. After two failed bunts, left fielder Jordan Casas looped a foul ball into foul territory that was run down by Beloit third baseman Miguel Sano. With Sano’s back to the infield, Hankins made his move.
The speedy outfielder instinctively tagged from first and cruised into second standing up before Sano even realized he had left the first base bag. On a fly out to center field by second baseman Jose Ramirez, Hankins was at it again. This time, he was a blur as he made his way into third base without a hint of a throw.
With Hankins on third and two out, Beloit decided, as many teams have this season, to walk dangerous shortstop Francisco Lindor intentionally. The free pass was the third straight and fourth of the night for the Indians number one overall prospect, who doubled in the second inning to extend his season-best hit streak to ten games.
With Jordan Smith at the dish, Williams struggled to find his command, working the count full. His 3-2 pitch was in the dirt and kicked away from catcher Matt Koch. Once again, Hankins seized the opportunity, sprinting down the line and sliding home as the winning run into a mob of teammates rushing out of the home dugout.
Up to that point, however, the game was anything but pretty. Beloit pitchers walked a whopping 12 Lake County hitters and Captain pitching was not much better, surrendering eight free passes. The fourteen combined hits (8 for Beloit, 6 for Lake County) paled in comparison to the twenty free passes. The team’s also paired to commit five errors on the evening, one a piece for Castillo and first baseman Jerrud Sabourin.
“It is a big adjustment at this level laying off pitches out of the zone,” said manager Dave Wallace of the Captains’ hitters affinity for drawing free passes. “Swinging at pitches you like that are in the [strike] zone sets you up for success.”
Although the game was sloppy, there was nothing hard on the eyes about the Beloit first inning. Lake County starter Cody Anderson breezed through the first two hitters, bringing Sano to the plate. The Minnesota Twins’ first overall prospect showed why the club paid him a $3.15 million signing bonus, turning a first pitch fastball to a monster home run that cleared the left field bleachers. The product of the Dominican Republic leads the Midwest League with 19 home runs and ranks second with 64 RBIs.
“I am proud of how our pitchers and catchers handled him,” said Wallace of Sano. The Lake County manager went on to describe the opposing third baseman as having a Major League body and swing.
The Captains, however, were able to answer in their half of the first inning. Beloit starter Tyler Jones walked the bases loaded before striking out Sabourin, bringing center fielder Luigi Rodriguez to the plate. Rodriguez picked up where he left off on Sunday night when he smashed a single that was too hot to handle by the second baseman for an RBI. The Captains would score two more times in the inning on an error by Beloit shortstop Steven Wickens and an RBI groundout by catcher Jake Lowery.
Lake County entered the top of the second inning with a 3-1 advantage and would exit the frame leading 3-2, but down their manager. Dave Wallace was ejected in the top of the second inning by home plate umpire Lee Meyers after a batted ball that looked to be a tailor made double play struck base umpire James Rackley, who Wallace felt did little to get out of the way.
It was the first time that the Captains’ skipper was tossed in front of the home crowd and his fourth overall ejection of the campaign.
In the bottom of the third inning, Luigi Rodriguez was at it again. After Sabourin roped a single to center field, the Santiago, Dominican Republic native drove an opposite field home run over the fence in left center field. It was the second big fly in as many nights for the switch hitter, bringing his total to eight on the season.
After the Snappers used a big fly of their own in the top of the fifth inning by first baseman Steven Liddle, his second of the year, to draw even at 5-5, the Captains came roaring back in the bottom of the frame.
Smith smacked a leadoff single against reliever Steven Evans, who then issued a base-on-balls to Sabourin. Rodriguez was at it again, this time laying a bunt down the first base line. However, the Beloit defense was unable to field the ball before Rodriguez was standing on first with another base hit. It was the seventh consecutive hit for the center fielder.
With the bases loaded, designated hitter Bryson Myles banged a single through the middle to score Smith and Sabourin. The Captains pushed a third run across the dish on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Jordan Casas to forge ahead 8-5.
Lake County reliever Kyle Petter was unable to hold the advantage when he came on in relief of Francisco Valera in the top of the sixth. After retiring the first two Snappers, Petter hit left fielder Nate Roberts and walked the next two to load the bases. Right fielder Drew Leachman then unloaded them with one swing of the bat when he drove a double over the head of Rodriguez in center to bring the score back to even at 8-8. It would remain that way until the Captains walked-off a winner in the bottom of the ninth.
After losing the first two games of the home stand, Lake County was able to close on a high note, winning four straight. The Captains are now 13-11 in the second half, bringing them to two games over .500 for the third time this season. They opened the year 3-1 and have not returned to two games above the watermark since they were 25-23.
Lake County has an off day on Tuesday in order to travel to Davenport, IA., where they will face off against the Quad Cities River Bandits. The game is slated to begin at 8:00 pm. Seeking to tie their longest winning streak of the campaign, the Captains will hand the ball to left-hander Shawn Morimando. Quad Cities will counter with right-hander Sam Gaviglio (5-6, 4.97).