Captains win in 11-innings, take series
EASTLAKE – The Lake County Captains battled both the chill and the Peoria Chiefs in an extra-inning 7-6 victory on Thursday night.
Right-hander Felix Sterling (0-0, 3.15 ERA) started for the Captains against Peoria’s Michael Jensen (3-1, 1.50), a righty from Salinas, California.
Sterling sailed through two innings walking just two, but ran into trouble in the third inning. With one out and one man on, third baseman Wes Darvill sent a shot over the right field fence for his first career home run, giving Peoria a 2-0 lead.
Lake County answered in the home half of the third when right fielder Zach MacPhee led off with a walk and left fielder Todd Hankins doubled to left. Shortstop Francisco Lindor earned his seventh RBI of the season as he laced a single to left to plate MacPhee and with one out, designated hitter Jordan Smith singled on a ball to the third baseman Darvill to score Hankins, leveling the score at 2-2.
Peoria responded right away in the top of the fourth when shortstop Marco Hernandez singled on a bunt with two outs and left fielder Eduardo Gonzalez tripled to right, giving the Chiefs the 3-2 edge.
The Captains weren’t finished in their half of the fourth as third baseman Leonardo Castillo reached base on a fielder’s choice. MacPhee was plunked by a pitch with one out and Hankins drew a walk. With Lindor at the plate, Jensen tossed a wild pitch that allowed Castillo to score. Catcher Alex Monsalve came through to give the Captains the 5-3 lead as he plated MacPhee and Hankins on a single to left.
Sterling was pulled for Francisco Valera in the sixth, ending Sterling’s evening with five innings pitched, yielding four hits, three runs and three walks while striking out one.
Meanwhile, Luis Liria entered the game to pitch Peoria’s part of the sixth, ending Jensen’s night with a line of five innings, giving up six hits, five runs and three walks while striking out four.
After Liria tossed a scoreless sixth, the Chiefs snagged the lead back in the seventh when Gonzalez drew a walk. Center fielder Pin-Chieh Chen singled and second baseman Zeke DeVoss picked up an RBI as he sent a line drive to right to score Gonzalez. After Darvill reached on a single and first baseman Ryan Cuneo was hit by a pitch, DeVoss scored on a single to left off the bat of designated hitter Paul Hoilman.
With the Chiefs up 6-5, Valera regrouped to retire the next two outs until he was replaced by righty Kyle Blair, who shut down Hernandez with a groundout to kill the rally. Blair went on to throw 3.1 innings of scoreless ball, allowing no hits while striking out four.
Down one run in the bottom of the ninth, the Captains managed to remain afloat as they gained a run off of Peoria lefty Jeffrey Lorick. Smith kicked off the inning with a walk and center fielder Jordan Casas reached base on a bunt single. Both runners advanced on a passed ball and second baseman Robel Garcia drew a walk to load the bases. With one out, Castillo sent a sacrifice fly into center deep enough to score Smith to tie the game at 6-6. With the winning run aboard, Zach MacPhee struck out looking to send the game into extras.
After a scoreless tenth, Jeff Johnson replaced Blair, who has now thrown 5.1 innings of scoreless ball through his last three appearances.
Johnson retired the side in the eleventh to set the stage for the Captains’ offense in the home half of the inning.
Casas led off with a single to right and advanced all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt by Garcia as Peoria pitcher Austin Reed threw the ball away down the right field line on a throwing error. With no outs and two on, Sabourin sent the game-winning sacrifice fly into right, sealing the Captains’ 7-6 victory.
Lake County took the series from the Peoria Chiefs with Thursday’s win, but Captains’ manager David Wallace noted that there is always room for improvement.
“I’m not going to change my message to these guys in our approach,” Wallace said. “It’s come here, get better, and we leave here better than we came. Even when we were in the midst of that ten-game losing streak, we were getting better. I don’t care if we win ten in a row, we’re going to have the same approach.”
Wallace also noted Kyle Blair’s adjustments since his early-season issues.
“I think it was more of a mental thing,” Wallace said. “We told [the bullpen] that their season starts now and Kyle’s done a good job of putting some early struggles behind him.”
Blair said his biggest adjustment was to merely go out and throw strikes.
“I didn’t really throw quality strikes before,” Blair said. “Everything was getting up in the zone. I just came in and hit the reset button and just got back to what I did before.”
Francisco Lindor posted another notable performance as he went 3-for-6, giving him a .289 average on the year. Jordan Casas also went 3-for-6 and scored a run.
The Captains conclude their series with the Chiefs on Friday during a 6:30 pm start. Elvis Araujo (0-3, 2.25) will take the bump for Lake County against Peoria’s PJ Francescon (1-1, 2.57).
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.