EASTLAKE – The Lake County Captains jumped on the Lansing Lugnuts early on Sunday afternoon as the Lake County offense caught the early lead to earn a 9-2 victory.
Nick Pasquale (2-0, 1.88) received the start for the Captains to replace Cody Anderson, who was originally scheduled to start. Anderson was scratched due to soreness in his hamstring, but is expected to pitch on Thursday. The Lugnuts countered Pasquale with right-hander Blake McFarland (5-3, 4.59).
The Captains crafted a tidal wave over McFarland in the first as they plated four runs on five hits in the inning. Second baseman Jose Ramirez led off with a double to right and shortstop Francisco Lindor followed with a walk. Cue Lake County’s Sabourin-Smith combo, who smacked a pair of back-to-back doubles to tack on a total of three runs. The Captains added one more as designated hitter Bryson Myles singled up the middle to score Sabourin and give Lake County the 4-0 lead.
McFarland’s struggles carried over into the second inning as Ramirez singled into center and swiped second for his 13th stolen base of the year. Ramirez advanced to third as Lindor lined a double to center and the Captains loaded the bases as Smith was plunked by a pitch. Sabourin sent a sacrifice fly deep into foul territory to score Ramirez. Myles followed with a single to left to plate Lindor and Smith, boosting the Captains to the 7-0 advantage. That ended the day for McFarland, who allowed a total of seven runs on eight hits and a pair of walks. McFarland was replaced with Aleson Escalante, who went 4.2 innings for Lansing and allowed just a run on four hits.
The Lugnuts managed to add one in the third as second baseman Andy Fermin laced a double to left for Lansing’s first hit of the day. A pair of consecutive groundouts scored Fermin, putting the Lugnuts down 7-1.
Pasquale, who was on a pitch count limit, was pulled after four innings of work, yielding just one run on two hits while fanning four. Pasquale was replaced with Francisco Valera, who tossed four scoreless innings of relief.
Centerfielder Luigi Rodriguez led off the fifth inning with an inside-the-park home run as he sent a liner into the left fielder corner, giving the Captains the 8-1 lead.
Avon native and Oberlin College alumnus Philip Brua entered the game to start the seventh for the Lugnuts. Left fielder Zach MacPhee contributed to the Captains’ offensive output as he led off the eighth inning with a triple and crossed the dish on a groundout by second baseman Yhoaxin Medina, who entered the game to replace Ramirez at second.
Left-hander Harold Guerrero made things interesting in the ninth as he surrendered a lead-off single to catcher Chris Schaeffer. With one out, Guerrero walked third baseman Gustavo Pierre and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Guerrero walked right fielder Chris Hawkins to load the bases and allowed a run to score as he hit designated hitter K.C. Hobson with a pitch, cutting the deficit to 9-2. Guerrero regained his composure with the bases still loaded though, as he settled in to strike out the next two batters faced, securing the Captains with the 9-2 victory.
Sunday’s win puts the Captains six games above .500 for the second half of the season. The team now holds a two-game lead over the South Bend Silver Hawks in the Midwest League wild card race.
Captains’ manager Dave Wallace noted that his team has put in the work to instigate a positive output and the results are showing.
“Guys are making adjustments physically and mentally and it’s showing up in the win-loss column,” Wallace said. “Our pitchers are attacking guys. We’re not walking a whole lot of guys and that’s huge.”
Wallace also attributed the Captains’ second-half success to the players’ assimilation to the minor leagues. “We knew we had the talent, it’s just a matter of experience,” Wallace explained. “The first year of experience in pro ball is huge. Now, everyone’s pretty much got a whole year under their belt except a few of our pitchers. It’s what we’re here for, to get better and they’re getting better.”
Next, the Captains send lefty Shawn Morimando (6-4, 3.50) to the bump to take on Lansing right-hander Aaron Sanchez (8-3, 2.28). Sanchez was the Toronto Blue Jays’ first-round draft pick of 2010 and received a win the last time he faced the Captains back in July.
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.