Lugnuts clinch first half title with 6-5 victory over Lake County
LANSING- The first-place Lansing Lugnuts (42-19) defeated the Lake County Captains (29-32) by a score of 6-5 on Saturday night at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing. The win clinched the first half championship of the Midwest League’s Eastern Division for the Lugnuts.
Lansing scored all six of their runs in the bottom of the first inning of off Captains’ starter Elvis Araujo (2-5, 3.88) and relied on their bullpen to hold the lead in the late innings.
After a walk and a double to open the inning, right fielder Kevin Pillar smashed an RBI single to right field. After another walk to load the bases, Araujo gave up two runs without a ball being put in play. The left-hander hit designated hitter Andy Fermin and surrendered a walk to Markus Brisker, the left fielder, to put Lansing ahead 3-0. After a two-RBI single, the Lugnuts executed a successful double steal plating Brisker. The left fielder’s 18th stolen bag of the year ended the night for Araujo, who gave up six runs on three hits and three walks in just 0.2 innings.
Mason Radeke came on in relief of the big left hander and shut down the Lugnuts, but the six first inning tallies proved to be enough to hold the Captains at bay.
Lake County mounted a rally in the top of the fourth inning against Lansing starter David Rollins (5-0, 3.21). After a leadoff walk to designated hitter Jordan Smith and a single by first baseman Jerrud Sabourin, right fielder Bryson Myles drove his seventh double to left field, plating Smith. Alex Lavisky, doing the catching for Lake County, followed Myles with a double of his own, the twelfth of the season for the Lakewood, Ohio native. The two-RBIs on the play gave the catcher 25 on the year and moved the Captains within a score of 6-3.
Rollins bore down and retired the next three Lake County hitters in order to escape damage. However, the Captains tacked on another run in the top of the fifth, which was the last for Rollins. Center fielder Luigi Rodriguez sent his tenth double of the year to left field and advanced to third on an error to lead off the frame. Shortstop Nick Bartolone then grounded out to second base to score Rodriguez. With the single run, Lake County inched closer, finishing the fifth
The Captains scored their final run of the ballgame in the seventh inning. Bartolone shot his first double of the season into the left field corner and scored when pinch-hitter Alex Monsalve singled him home.
Monsalve replaced Jordan Smith, the Captains’ hottest hitter of late, who finished the evening 1-2 with a walk.
A.J. Meyer pitched an unblemished ninth inning to earn his 19th save of the year for the first place Lugnuts.
Although Araujo struggled in 0.2 innings, Lake County received another strong outing from the bullpen. Radeke combined with Manny Carmona and Rob Nixon to throw 7.1 scoreless innings in relief. The pitchers allowed just three hits, walking two, while striking out six.
The Captains will be back in action on Sunday afternoon in Lansing with the game slated to start at 2:05 pm. Lake County will send Midwest League All-Star Joe Colon (5-5, 2.78) to the hill, while the Lugnuts will counter with right hander Marcus Walden (4-1, 2.70).