(Eastlake, OH) - For the first time since May, the Lake County Captains (26-41) are winners of three consecutive ballgames. On a night that belonged largely to Miguel Eladio at the plate, the Captains defeated the South Bend Cubs (38-29) in the opener of a three-game series at Four Winds Field. Eladio's four hits, coupled with a wild play in the ninth, drove the Captains to a 6-5 win and eliminated South Bend from playoff contention in the first half.
Eladio's most important hit came in the ninth inning and it led to a hectic play that scored the game-winning run. The ballgame was tied at 5-5 and the Captains had Todd Isaacs on first with two outs. Eladio, who already had three singles, hit a hard line drive to centerfield. Isaacs raced from first to third and then the Captains caught a break. Centerfielder Luis Ayala threw the ball back into the infield, but his throw was wild and kicked away from shortstop Zack Short. Isaacs saw the ball bounce away and ran home to score the go-ahead run and Ryder Ryan set the Cubs down in order in the ninth to seal the 6-5 victory.
South Bend and Lake County played tight from wire to wire. The Cubs pushed across a pair of runs in the first inning against Captains starter Juan Hillman. Short led off with a double and scored on a single by Alberto Mineo. Later in the inning, Adonis Paula singled home Mineo to give South Bend a 2-0 lead.
Lake County responded and took the lead two innings later. In the second, Isaacs roped an RBI double into the left field corner to put the Captains on the board. In the third, Gavin Collins hit a two-run home run against Cubs reliever Tyler Peyton to put the Captains in front for the first time, 3-2.
The Captains' lead was short-lived. South Bend tied the game in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Chris Pieters. Mineo beat the Captains' pull-shift with a one-out bunt single. After Isaac Paredes singled to put runners on the corners, Pieters hit a fly ball to centerfield that brought home Mineo to tie the game at 3-3.
Nobody scored again until the sixth inning when the Captains took the lead courtesy of an Emmanuel Tapia blast. Peyton was still on the mound for South Bend when Tapia came up to lead off the sixth. On a 2-0 pitch, Tapia hit an opposite-field solo homer to give the Captains the lead again at 4-3. The home run was Tapia's 13th of the year, putting him in sole possession of the Midwest League home run lead.
Eladio provided the Captains with an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single, but the Cubs trimmed the deficit to one run in the home half of the inning against Captains reliever Jacob Lee. Lee had missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John Surgery and worked a scoreless sixth inning in his first appearance since 2015. In the sixth inning, however, Lee walked Short and Vimael Machin followed with an RBI double off the centerfield wall to cut the Captains' lead to 5-4.
The Cubs tied the score in the eighth against Ryan. Yeiler Peguero came up with one out and hit a high fly ball that glanced off of Jose Medina's glove in deep left field and Peguero landed on second with a double. Roberto Caro followed with a line drive triple to the gap in left-centerfield. Peguero scored to knot the game at 5-5, but Ryan held firm and stranded Peguero on third base to keep the game tied going into the ninth inning when Eladio's hit and Ayala's error lifted the Captains to their third straight win.
Hillman did not factor in the decision, but the lefty turned in another strong start for Lake County. Hillman lasted five innings for the eighth start in a row. He also allowed just three runs, giving him six consecutive starts with three or fewer runs surrendered. Hillman scattered five hits, walked a pair and struck out two.
Ryan (3-2) picked up the win despite taking a blown save. The right-hander gave up one run on a pair of hits. He struck out one and walked one.
Lefty reliever Marc Huberman was on the mound for the Cubs when the Captains scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning. Huberman (1-1) only gave up one unearned run over two innings, but was saddled with the loss. The lefty gave up one hit, walked one batter and struck out three.
The Captains' victory over South Bend knocked the Cubs out of playoff contention in the first half. Because the Dayton Dragons won their game against the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the Lansing Lugnuts fell to the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Dragons clinched the Eastern Division Wild Card for the first half. Both Lansing and South Bend were chasing Dayton heading into Friday night.
Lake County will go for its fourth straight victory on Saturday night. First pitch against the Cubs at Four Winds Field 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). 12-, 20-, and 35-game mini ticket plans for the 2017 season are on sale now at 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.