(Midland, MI) - Emmanuel Tapia etched his name in the record books on Saturday night at Dow Diamond. With a titanic clout to dead centerfield in the top of the ninth inning, Tapia tallied his 28th home run of the year, tying the Lake County Captains (26-42, 53-84) single-season home run record. The Captains, however, lost to the Great Lakes Loons (32-36, 68-69), 7-4.
Tapia had gone 1-for-4 with a double when he stepped to the plate in the ninth. The power-hitting first baseman narrowly missed a home run in his previous at-bat when he slammed a double off the left-centerfield wall in the seventh inning. In the ninth, he faced right-hander Colby Nealy with Todd Isaacs on first base and two outs. On a 2-0 pitch, Tapia launched a fly ball deep to centerfield that landed over the 400 foot sign on the grass berm beyond the wall. The home run tied the mark set by Ryan Goleski in 2004. It traveled an estimated 426 feet.
Tapia's homer proved to be the highlight of the Captains' night. Great Lakes took the lead in the third inning and never looked back. In the third, Moises Perez doubled off of Captains starter Juan Hillman and Jeren Kendall smoked a triple to left-centerfield that scored Perez and gave the Loons a 1-0 lead. Gavin Lux came up next with the infield in and hit a soft grounder to first. Tapia went to throw home, but double-clutched and could not get the ball out of his glove. Kendall scored easily and when Tapia turned to get the out at first, Lux was already there with an infield single.
The Captains scored in the top of the fourth when Loons reliever Aneurys Zabala hit Luke Wakamatsu with the bases loaded, cutting the Great Lakes lead to 2-1. The Loons, however, responded with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Starling Heredia hit a leadoff triple and Hillman walked Tyler Adkinson. Nick Yarnall then singled home Heredia to give Great Lakes a 3-1 lead. Steve Berman came up next and hit a fly ball to deep centerfield, which allowed Adkinson and Yarnall to tag up and go to third and second base, respectively. The Captains pulled the infield in with Perez at the plate, but the Loons' nine-hitter singled to center, scoring both runners to push Great Lakes' lead to 5-1. Hillman got a key 3-6-1 double play to get out of the inning, but the damage was done.
Lake County inched closer with a run in the seventh against Zabala. Isaacs reached on an infield single and Tapia smacked a double off the left-centerfield wall. Logan Ice then served a single into right that scored Isaacs, trimming the Loons' lead to 5-2.
Great Lakes got two runs back in the bottom of the eighth inning against Cesar Ventura . The Captains' right-hander had pitched three innings of relief without allowing a run, but Heredia hit a one-out double and Ventura walked Yarnall with two outs. Berman then fouled off a pair of 1-2 pitches before pulling a two-run double down the left field line, giving the Loons a 7-2 lead. Tapia's homer in the ninth set the final score at 7-4.
Zabala (1-1) picked up the win for the Loons. He worked four innings in relief and allowed one run on four hits. Zabala struck out eight Captains, walked two and allowed three hits. Nealy picked up his first save, allowing two runs on two hits over two innings. The right-hander struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Hillman (7-10) took the loss. The lefty worked four frames and surrendered five runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out one.
The Captains lost the opener of their last series of the season and will play the penultimate game of the 2017 season on Sunday afternoon. First pitch against the Loons is scheduled for 2:05 PM at Dow Diamond.
Information about Classic Park or the Captains can be found online at www.captainsbaseball.com and by phone at 440-954-WINS (9467). The Captains front office can be reached at 440-975-8085.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.