(Eastlake, OH) - The Lake County Captains (22-38) notched their second straight win thanks to quality pitching, a couple long balls and a few fortunate bounces on Saturday night at Classic Park. Juan Hillman led the way on the mound and a four-run fourth inning blew the game open for the Captains who defeated the Bowling Green Hot Rods (28-32), 9-2.
Just like the night before the Captains and the Hot Rods traded long balls early. Gavin Collins put the Captains ahead in the first with a two-run shot and Garrett Whitley responded in the second with a two-run homer for Bowling Green to tie the game. After Whitley's long ball, however, Hillman settled in.
Hillman struck out Lucius Fox right after the game-tying home run and that began a string of 10 consecutive outs by the left-handed starter. Hillman was perfect from the end of the second through the fifth, posting three straight one-two-three innings.
While Hillman dealt, the Captains jumped in front. Hot Rods starter Chris Pike, making his debut as a knuckleball pitcher, ran into early trouble in the bottom of the fourth. Li-Jen Chu and Gavin Collins hit back-to-back singles to open up the frame. With runners on two men on and nobody out, Pike got the ground ball he was looking for when Emmanuel Tapia chopped a ball to the Hot Rods' second baseman, but Robbie Tenerowicz spiked the throw to shortstop Miles Mastrobuoni. The ball kicked into left field and Chu scored to give the Captains the lead, while Collins raced to third and Tapia made it up to second.
The good fortune continued for the Captains one batter later. With Jose Medina at the plate, catcher Jonah Heim let a pitch kick off of his glove and skip to the backstop. Collins scored on the passed ball and Tapia moved up to third to give the Captains a 4-2 lead. Lake County was still not done, however. Jose Vicente rolled an infield single to put runners on the corners and, two batters later, Todd Isaacs flared a blooper into right field. The ball fell over Tenerowicz's head and then he inadvertently kicked it away. Tapia scored on the single, Vicente scored all the way from first when the ball bounced away and Isaacs ran all the way to third. The Captains finished the inning with a 6-2 lead, scoring four unearned runs thanks to two errors, a passed ball and three hits.
Lake County added to its lead with three more runs. Miguel Eladio led off the fifth with his second home run in as many days. One inning later, the Captains got another break when Jorma Rodriguez hit a two-out double and Isaacs hit a pop up that Tenerowicz lost in the lights. The ball fell in the infield for an RBI double. In the eighth, the Captains tacked on their final run when Tapia doubled, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a wild pitch.
Working with a sizeable lead, the Captains' bullpen blanked the Hot Rods the rest of the way. After Hillman's five strong innings, Justin Garza pitched three scoreless innings, working around three walks and a hit-batsman in his first appearance back from the disabled list. Henry Martinez struck out three in the ninth and left the bases loaded to seal the win for the Captains.
Hillman (3-3) picked up the win. The lefty pitched five innings and allowed just two runs, both on the home run by Whitley. Hillman gave up three hits, walked two and struck out six.
Pike (0-1) lost his 2017 debut and his first start as a knuckleball pitcher. The right-hander who had pitched for three years in the Tampa Bay Rays' system as a traditional pitcher, lasted four innings in his first start with his new weapon. Pike gave up six runs, but only two were earned. He surrendered six hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter.
The Captains and Hot Rods will have a full day of baseball on Sunday. First, the teams will continue a suspended game that began on April 19. The game will resume at 1:30 and will pick up in the top of the fifth inning with the Hot Rods leading, 2-0. There will be two outs and nobody on base for Bowling Green. After the conclusion of that game, the Captains and Hot Rods will play a full seven-inning game.
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.