(Dayton, OH) - The Lake County Captains (22-31, 51-72) scored five runs in the first inning on Friday night and held on for dear life. The Dayton Dragons (22-32, 53-69) chipped away and threatened late, but the Captains escaped with a 5-4 win to avoid a sweep in the final game of a three-game series at Fifth Third Field.
Lake County jumped all over Dragons starter Packy Naughton in the first. Jesse Berardi led off with a double on the first pitch of the game. He was quickly retired when Oscar Gonzalez chopped a ball to third and Jonathan India caught Berardi in a rundown for the first out. Gonzalez reached first on the fielder's choice and Jonathan Laureano smacked a line drive to the right-centerfield gap. Gonzalez scored the game's first run and Laureano landed on second with his first of three doubles. Naughton then walked Jose Vicente and Will Benson drilled a double over centerfielder Andy Sugilio. Laureano scored to push the Captains' lead to 2-0. Two batters later, Todd Isaacs roped a single into right that brought home Vicente and Benson to double the lead. Isaacs then stole second and Gabriel Mejia socked a triple over Sugilio's head. Isaacs came home to extend Lake County's advantage to 5-0. The Captains sent nine men to the plate in the first and scored five runs on five hits.
Hendrik Clementina helped the Dragons get back in the game. In the bottom of the first, Jose Garcia and Jeter Downs started the frame with back-to-back singles. India then bounced a ball to shortstop and the Captains forced Downs out at second. With runners on the corners and one out, Clementina hit a soft grounder to third and Garcia scored to cut the Captains' lead to 5-1.
Clementina struck again in the third. With two outs, Captains starter Juan Hillman walked Downs on four pitches and India followed with a double. Clementina then grounded a single to left that scored both runners and trimmed the Captains' advantage to 5-3.
In the sixth, Leandro Santana singled with one out and Hillman walked J.D. Williams with two outs. Riley Echols entered the ballgame with Williams on first and Santana on second. Echols fired a pitch wide of catcher Laureano to the backhand side. The ball skipped off Laureano's glove and kicked to his right. Santana took off for third and Laureano sailed his throw into left field, allowing Santana to score and make it a one-run ballgame.
Echols escaped the sixth without another run, but the Dragons threatened in the seventh. Garcia led off and ripped a single back through the middle that hit Echols on the left arm. Echols remained in the game, but walked Downs and India to load the bases with nobody out for Clementina.
The Captains clung to a 5-4 lead with and Robert Broom came in from the bullpen. Broom and Clementina battled for 10 pitches in a tense showdown. Broom fell behind in a 3-1 count, but got Clementina to swing and miss to run the count full. After Clementina fouled off four straight pitches, Broom got him to swing and miss at a high fastball for strike three. The bases were still loaded with one out and Sugilio came to the plate. He roped a hard line drive to left field and Isaacs raced in to make the catch. Garcia tagged up from third, but Isaacs alertly fired the ball to second base. Downs had strayed too far off the base and Isaacs' throw slammed into Berardi's glove before Downs could get back to the bag. The double play ended the inning and kept the Captains ahead by one.
Dayton again knocked on the door in the ninth against Jonathan Teaney . The right-hander struck out Garcia for the first out, but walked Downs. The speedster swiped second and Dayton had the tying run in scoring position. India then blasted a deep drive to centerfield, but Mejia flagged it down right in front of the warning track for out number two. Downs, however, tagged up and went to third. With two outs and the Captains clutching a one-run lead in the ninth, Clementina again came to the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Teaney threw a ball in the dirt and Clementina went after it for strike three, but the ball bounced off of Laureano's chest protector and skidded to his right. With Downs heading home, Laureano scooped up the baseball and fired a strike to first to end the ballgame.
Hillman (4-12) picked up the win. The left-hander pitched 5.2 innings and surrendered four runs - three earned - on six hits. He struck out seven and walked four. Teaney earned his sixth save, thanks to his ninth-inning escape.
Naughton (5-10) took the loss. He pitched 6.2 innings and allowed five runs on eight hits. The southpaw struck out six and walked one. He did not allow a run after the first.
The Captains ended their seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record and will begin a six-game homestand on Saturday night. Lake County will play a three-game series against the West Michigan Whitecaps and a three-game series against the South Bend Cubs at Classic Park. Game one against West Michigan is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday evening.
Information about Classic Park or the Captains can be found online at www.captainsbaseball.com and by phone at 440-954-WINS (9467). Affordable ticket packages and group party and picnic options are available now.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.