(Eastlake, OH) - The Lake County Captains (12-22) very nearly pulled off their biggest comeback of the season on Saturday night. The Captains trailed by scores of 4-0 and 5-1 against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (17-16), but rallied and pulled within one. Thanks to a stingy bullpen, however, Wisconsin held on for a 5-4 victory to finish a three-game sweep at Classic Park.
Wisconsin put the Captains on their heels early. Lake County starter Micah Miniard escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning. The very next inning, however, the Timber Rattlers loaded the bags again, this time with nobody out. Miniard got Demi Orimoloye to ground out for the first out, but with Mario Feliciano at the plate, Captains catcher Li-Jen Chu let a pitch tip off his glove and skid to the backstop. Ronnie Gideon raced home on the passed ball for the first run. Feliciano then followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
After Feliciano's knock, Tucker Neuhaus delivered an important blow and an outfield miscue cost the Captains. Neuhaus roped a line drive to the gap in left-centerfield and left fielder Trenton Brooks took too sharp of angle to try and cut the ball off. Brooks slid, but the ball skipped past him. Jose Cuas scored easily from first on the single, while Feliciano scored from first on the error and Neuhaus moved to second. After Miniard walked the next batter, the right-hander induced an inning-ending double play, but the damage was done and Wisconsin took a 4-0 lead.
Lake County got one run back in the bottom of the second. Todd Isaacs lined a one-out triple down the left field line and Conner Capel brought him home with a sacrifice fly to trim the Wisconsin advantage to 4-1.
The Timber Rattlers regained their four-run lead in the top of the fourth, but Wisconsin had a potentially bigger rally thwarted thanks to a batter's interference call. After Orimoloye doubled with one out and stole third base, Feliciano knocked him in with a single. Wisconsin called for a hit-and-run with Neuhaus at the plate, but the pitch from Miniard was well outside. Neuhaus took a hack at the pitch anyway, but in doing so, he interfered with Chu trying to throw out Feliciano at second. Home plate umpire Robert Nunez called batter's interference, which sent Feliciano back to first and sent Neuhaus back to the dugout with the second out. Miniard went on to walk Monte Harrison on four pitches and lefty reliever Alsis Herrera walked Ryan Aguilar to load the bases, but Joantgel Segovia popped out to left to end the inning with Wisconsin ahead, 5-1.
Lake County put together its big rally in the fifth against the Timber Rattlers' lefty starter, Cameron Roegner. Brooks, who had already singled twice, led off the frame with a walk and Jorma Rodriguez singled. Luke Wakamatsu nearly followed with a single through the right side, but Neuhaus robbed him with a diving stop. Nevertheless, Brooks moved to third and Rodriguez to second on the ground out and Chu came to the plate.
Chu had already slammed a pair of singles when he stepped up for a third time against Roegner. This time with two men in scoring position, Chu drilled a line drive down the left field line that just touched down inside the chalk. Both Brooks and Rodriguez scored to cut the Wisconsin lead to 5-3, but the Captains were not finished. Mitch Longo followed Chu with a single and Jose Vicente drove home Chu with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-4.
Lake County had four innings to try to make up the one-run difference, but the Timber Rattlers held on tight. Right-hander Braden Webb tossed three shutout innings from the sixth through the eighth. The biggest threat the Captains posed against Webb was a two-out double by Vicente in the seventh, but Webb fanned the next batter to end the inning. He ended up striking out five men over his three frames and allowed just two hits.
Parker Berberet pitched a one-two-three ninth inning to earn the save. A converted catcher who spent six seasons as a backstop in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization, Berberet converted to pitcher this year and recorded his first career save on Saturday night.
Roegner (3-1) took home the win for Wisconsin. The southpaw lasted five innings and allowed four runs on 10 hits. Roegner struck out three and walked one.
Miniard (1-3) suffered the loss. The Captains' right-hander pitched 3.2 innings and surrendered five runs, four of which were earned. Miniard walked five men, surrendered eight hits and struck out one batter.
Chu led a Lake County offense that out-hit Wisconsin in the losing effort. The Captains' catcher tallied a team-high three hits and two RBI. Brooks, Rodriguez, Longo and Isaacs each had two-hit games. Lake County notched 12 hits compared to eight by the Timber Rattlers.
The Captains were swept in the three-game series against Wisconsin and went 1-5 on their six-game homestand. Lake County will enjoy a day off on Sunday before returning to action on Monday in Midland, MI to start a three-game series against the Great Lakes Loons. First pitch on Monday is scheduled for 7:05 PM at Dow Diamond.
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). Full season tickets plans, 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.