(Eastlake, OH) - A four-run top of the first that included three errors sunk the Lake County Captains (24-33, 53-74) on Tuesday night against the South Bend Cubs (24-32, 59-67). The Captains scored at least a run in each of the first five innings, but could not overcome the Cubs in a 7-6 loss to open a three-game series at Classic Park.
The first inning began with a solid double to left-center by Cubs shortstop Rafael Narea. Christian Donahue followed with a line drive single to center, but the ball hopped over Gabriel Mejia and bounced to the warning track. Narea scored and Donahue advanced to third on the two-base error. After Delvin Zinn grounded out to third, Austin Filiere hit a grounder to third and Dane Hutcheon backhanded the ball and went to throw home, but he fumbled the ball on the transfer and Donahue scored. Captains starter Felix Tati followed the second error of the frame by hitting Jimmy Herron with a pitch. After Tati struck out Brandon Hughes looking, Austin Upshaw hit a fly ball to left that looked like it would end the inning. Todd Isaacs , however, misplayed the fly ball and it fell to the warning track. Filiere and Herron scored, while Upshaw advanced to second and the Cubs took a 4-0 lead.
Lake County chipped away at the deficit. In the bottom of the first, Mejia slammed a single to right and advanced to second when Jeff Passantino's pickoff throw to first went awry. Jonathan Laureano then pulled a single through the shortstop hole to score Mejia and cut the Cubs' lead to 4-1.
The Captains got another run in the second. Elvis Perez singled with one out and Isaacs followed with a sharp ground ball down the left field line for a double. Hutcheon then delivered his first RBI in the Indians' organization. The left-handed hitter, whose contract Cleveland had purchased earlier in the day from the Lake Erie Crushers of the independent Frontier League, hit a grounder to first base that scored Perez and trimmed the Captains' deficit to two runs.
South Bend got those two runs back in the top of the third. Filiere led off with a solo homer to left. Upshaw then hit another solo shot to right field with two outs. The Cubs pushed their lead back to four runs at 6-2.
Lake County responded in the bottom half of the frame. Richard Palacios cracked his second homer in three games with one out. His solo shot to right cut the deficit to three runs and Laureano followed with a bloop single to center to ignite another rally. Vicente followed with a single to put runners on the corners with one out. Will Benson came up next and hit a hard grounder to first. Upshaw tried to start an inning-ending double play, but the Cubs could only get one out. Upshaw threw to second to force out Vicente, but Benson hustled and beat the throw to first. Laureano scored to cut South Bend's lead to 6-4.
The Captains pulled within one run for the first time in the fourth. With two outs, Miguel Eladio crushed a solo homer over the left field bleachers. The home run was Eladio's first long ball since September 1, 2017.
After the Captains got a home run from an unlikely source, the Cubs followed suit in the fifth to extend their lead to 7-5. Delvin Zinn connected with his first career home run to lead off the top of the fifth.
Lake County caught a break and capitalized to pull back within one run in the fifth. Palacios led off and hit a high fly ball to centerfield. Hughes lost track of the baseball and it landed 30 feet behind him on the warning track. Palacios raced to third with a triple and later scored on a ground out by Vicente to shave the Cubs' lead down to 7-6.
The Captains scored at least a run in each of the first five innings, but then went scoreless in the final four frames. After Passantino got the first two outs in the sixth, Luis Aquino retired all four men he faced to take the Cubs through the seventh. Brendan King pitched scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth to notch his third save.
Passantino (4-0) picked up the victory, despite allowing six runs over 5.2 innings. The right-hander gave up 10 hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Tati (1-4) took the loss. The Captains' starter pitched five innings and gave up seven runs - four earned - on seven hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Despite the loss, the Captains made a little bit of local history. Hutcheon started the game at third base and became the first former Lake Erie Crusher to appear in a game for the Lake County Captains. The two teams are separated by 39 miles from Avon, OH to Eastlake, OH.
The Captains also made a slew of changes during Tuesday's game. Mejia started the game in centerfield, but came out in the top of the sixth. Berardi entered and played left, marking the first time he had played the outfield in a professional game. Isaacs subsequently moved from left field to center. Berardi then moved to second base in the seventh when Laureano moved from behind the plate to left field and Joshua Rolette came in to catch, replacing Palacios in the order. It was Laureano's first time in the outfield since last season with Mahoning Valley.
The Captains have lost two in a row and the Cubs have won three straight. Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Classic Park.
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.