EASTLAKE – The Lake County Captains pulled off an 8-5 win over the Beloit Snappers in celebration of Captains’ starter Elvis Araujo’s 21st birthday on Sunday night.
Araujo (3-7, 4.86) started for the Captains against Beloit lefty Ryan O’Rourke (2-4, 5.04), who has struggled through the month of July.
The Captains put together a strong second inning as centerfielder Luigi Rodriguez lined a one-out double to center and advanced to third on a single by left fielder Bryson Myles. As designated hitter Jake Lowery struck out, the Captains pulled off a double steal as Rodriguez stole home and Myles advanced to third on a throwing error by Beloit catcher Matt Koch. After catcher Alex Lavisky singled to score Myles, third baseman Todd Hankins sent his second home run of the season down the left field line, boosting the Captains to a 4-0 lead.
Beloit responded right away in the third as right fielder J.D. Williams doubled to right and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice fly off the bat off second baseman Tyler Grimes. Grimes reached base on an error by Rodriguez in center and went on to score on a single by shortstop Stephen Wickens, cutting the deficit in half at 4-2.
The Captains battled back in their half of the third to give Araujo another round of run support as shortstop Francisco Lindor led off the inning with a solo home run, his first home run since May 14. Right fielder Jordan Smith followed with a single and scored as Rodriguez took his seventh home run of the season deep to center, putting the Captains ahead 7-2.
The third inning was the end for O’Rourke, who relinquished seven runs on seven hits, including a trio of home runs. O’Rourke was replaced with Hudson, Ohio native Cole Johnson, a righty in his first year with the Snappers.
Araujo couldn’t keep the Snappers at bay as they picked up another three runs in the fourth. Third baseman Miguel Sano led off with a walk and first baseman Steven Liddle singled to center. Sano scored on a ground rule double by centerfielder Jhon Goncalves and Liddle scored as Koch hit an infield single. Araujo regrouped to strike out Williams, but the third strike was a wild pitch that allowed Goncalves to score, bringing Beloit within two.
Araujo settled down in the fifth inning as he retired all three batters faced, ending his night with five innings pitched, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Araujo was replaced with Felix Sterling, who was converted from a starter to a reliever in June. Sterling was dominant through four solid innings as he yielded just one hit and one walk while striking out two Snappers to seal the Captains with an 8-5 victory.
Lake County manager David Wallace was pleased with the team’s entire effort on Sunday. He noted that the offense looked solid at the plate and constructed a number of better at-bats.
“Tonight, we used the long ball to do it,” Wallace said. “We put together some good at-bats, good swings, and the wind was blowing out a little, but those were well-struck balls.”
Wallace also felt good about Araujo’s effort, noting Araujo’s aggressive approach.
“It was good for Elvis, I was happy with the way he attacked the zone,” Wallace said. “We played a whole nine innings tonight. A couple times, we’ve jumped out to an early lead like that, we’ve let them back in it, then our offense didn’t score any more runs. We let them back in it, but we continued to play hard and aggressive.”
Sterling’s outing was also a positive change of pace as he has struggled as of late. Wallace likened Sterling’s approach to Araujo’s, pointing out that Sterling wasn’t afraid to come at hitters.
“With the game close, it wasn’t like he was pitching in a blowout,” Wallace noted. “We just want him to challenge the strike zone and he did. That’s what happens when you’ve got good stuff like that – just let your defense make a couple plays like that and close the game out.”
Araujo celebrated his birthday win with a pie in the face in the Captains’ locker room. “It feels good,” he said. “It took a little pressure off me.”
Next, the Captains and Snappers finish off their series on Monday night as Lake County sends Cody Anderson (4-5, 3.33) to the bump against Beloit right-hander Tyler Jones (1-3, 3.28).
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.