(Lansing, MI) - Brady Aiken turned in one of the most dominant performances of his young professional career on Thursday night. The lefty carried a no-hitter into the sixth against the Lansing Lugnuts (19-27, 56-56) and finished with just one run and one hit allowed over seven innings of work. Aiken's brilliant outing helped carry the Lake County Captains (20-26, 47-68) to a 7-1 win at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Aiken only found himself in serious trouble once against the muted Lugnuts' offense. After pitching a one-two-three first inning, Aiken walked the leadoff batter in the second, but induced a double play to clear the bases. Aiken, however, walked the next two batters on eight pitches to put runners on first and second with two outs. Aiken then got Ridge Smith to pop out to second base and end the inning. It was the only time in the first five innings and one of just two times in Aiken's entire outing that the Lugnuts advanced a runner into scoring position against the southpaw.
Aiken cruised through the third, allowing just one runner to reach base on a two-out hit-by-pitch. He then pitched a perfect fourth inning, which included a stellar play by Luke Wakamatsu at deep shortstop. Mitch Nay hit a grounder in the shortstop hole and Wakamatsu backhanded the ball and made a jump throw to first for the out. Aiken then faced the minimum again in the fifth when he walked Yeltsin Gudino to lead off, got Smith to fly out and induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Luis Silva.
Lansing still had not managed a hit against Aiken when the sixth inning began. The lefty started the frame strong. Rodrigo Orozco hit a bouncer to Aiken and the pitcher took the ball to first base himself for an unassisted putout. Joshua Palacios then grounded out softly to second base. Edward Olivares came up next and the Lugnuts' number-three hitter worked the count to 2-1 before hitting a fly ball that narrowly cleared the wall in right field. Olivares' solo homer broke up Aiken's no-hitter and shutout, but the Captains were still ahead, 4-1, thanks to some early offense. Aiken then finished his night by pitching a one-two-three seventh inning.
Lake County's offense supported Aiken early. In the top of the first, Wakamatsu led off with a walk against Lansing starter Kyle Weatherly and then stole second base. Mitch Longo then slashed a double down the left field line to bring Wakamatsu home.
The Captains added a run in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead. Gabriel Mejia slapped a double down the left field line to start the frame. Weatherly then walked Wakamatsu and Miguel Eladio followed with a line drive single up the middle to plate Mejia.
The Captains did not score again until the fifth, but they added two runs that inning against lefty reliever Juliandry Higuera. Longo began the frame with his second double of the night and Chu singled to put runners on the corners. Chu advanced to second base after getting a good read on a ball in the dirt. With runners on second and third, Emmanuel Tapia hit a high fly ball to deep left-centerfield that centerfielder J.B. Woodman tracked down, but Longo tagged up from third and scored on the sacrifice fly. Conner Capel then singled to score Chu and push the Captains' advantage to 4-0.
Olivares' homer put the Lugnuts on the board, but the Captains answered with three more runs, first with an unearned run in the eighth and then with a pair of earned runs in the ninth. In the top of the eighth, Lugnuts reliever Connor Eller walked Jorma Rodriguez to lead off the inning. Rodriguez was still on first when Eladio came up and hit a line drive to the right field corner that Olivares tracked down, but dropped. Eladio hustled to second base on the error and Rodriguez scored all the way from first to give Lake County a 5-1 lead.
Eller remained in the game for the ninth, but the Captains rallied with a pair of one-out singles, one by Tapia and the other by Capel. After a ground out to second base by Logan Ice moved the runners to second and third base, the Lugnuts called on right-hander Andrew Deramo to come in from the bullpen to face Rodriguez. Rodriguez then hammered a line drive deep into the left-centerfield gap. Both runners scored with ease and Rodriguez glided into second with a two-run double that extended the Captains' advantage to 7-1.
After Aiken's night ended, Cesar Ventura nailed down the final two innings out of the bullpen, though two of his ninth-inning outs were less than conventional. Olivares led off the ninth and hit a high pop up in the middle of the infield. Tapia called everyone off and stood next to the mound, waiting for the ball to come down, but the first baseman misjudged the ball and it fell in the grass. Olivares raced to second base, but Eladio picked up the ball and fired it to Wakamatsu at second. The shortstop tagged out Olivares for the first out.
Nay singled after Olivares and moved to second when Rodriguez made a diving stop and threw out Nash Knight at first for the second out. With Nay on second and two outs, Woodman bounced a grounder up the middle. Eladio backhanded the ball and threw to first, but Woodman beat the throw. Meanwhile, however, Nay rounded third base and tried to score. Tapia whipped the ball home and Ice slapped the tag on Nay to end the game.
Aiken (5-12) earned the win for the Captains. He allowed just one run on one hit over seven innings of work. The southpaw struck out three, walked four and hit one batter.
Weatherly (0-4) suffered the loss after allowing two runs on four hits over three innings on the mound. Weatherly walked four and did not register a strikeout.
The Captains face Lansing again on Friday night at Cooley Law School Stadium. It will be the second game of a four-game series and the second game of an eight-game road trip for Lake County. First pitch in Lansing is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
Individual game tickets for all Captains games are on sale at the Classic Park box office, online at captainsbaseball.com and by phone at 440-954-WINS (9467). Mini ticket plans for the 2017 season are still available for great prices complete with several exclusive benefits. Information can be found at the Captains website www.captainsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.