With the season winding down to its final two weeks, the Lake County Captains are staring down elimination from the postseason picture while working their way back to the .500 mark on the year.
The Captains (26-29) took both of their series over the last week, sweeping four straight from the West Michigan Whitecaps before taking two of three in Fort Wayne from the TinCaps. In winning six of their last seven and seven of their last ten, they have pulled their record within three games of reaching the even mark while tying the Great Lakes Loons for fourth place in the Midwest League Eastern Division. They will host five games in the next four days against Bowling Green before welcoming in Lansing for four home games over the weekend.
In other news and notes from the Captains’ log:
The Hillcats (35-20) have cooled off some after their hot start, but they are still staying on top of things in the Carolina League, sitting in first place with a five-game lead in the Northern Division over the Potomac Nationals. They have the second-best record in the Carolina League, trailing only Salem’s 37-19 start.
Last weekend, they wrapped up a split against Salem, a team that has had their number this season. They finally had their lone scheduled off-day of May on the 31st before jumping back on the road for three against Wilmington. The trip was successful as the Hillcats took two of three, but another series with those pesky Red Sox has started this weekend.
The Sox took game one in Salem on Saturday on a bizarre and lucky walk-off. The series moves back to Lynchburg for Sunday and Monday before the clubs head back to Salem to wrap up the unique four-gamer on Tuesday night. Lynchburg will then return home, playing four games at the end of the week against Myrtle Beach and three at the beginning of next week against Carolina as the All-Star break is just over two weeks away.
In other Hillcats chatter from Virginia:
A 6-4 loss to the South Bend Cubs on Sunday afternoon sent the Lake County Captains to a fourth straight defeat, a season high. It also dropped them to two games in back in the Midwest League Eastern Division in a rare stretch of the season that has not involved the Captains being in first place. Prior to falling out of first place with a loss on Saturday, Lake County had spent 40 straight days tied for or in sole possession of the top spot in the Eastern Division.
Lake County will look to avoid the four-game sweep on their home field at Classic Park on Monday. They will then hit the road for a brief three-game trip to Dayton to face the Dragons before returning home on Friday for a seven-game homestand with Fort Wayne and Bowling Green.
In other Captains news and notes:
With a 6-3 victory on Sunday afternoon, the Lake County Captains (23-14) split their series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and reclaimed first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. They head into Monday’s off day with a one-game lead over South Bend and a two-game edge over Bowling Green.
The Captains will return to the field at 6:30 PM ET on Tuesday night as they begin a seven-game home stand, starting with a three-game series against the Dayton Dragons. They will play four with South Bend over the weekend before heading to Dayton for three more against the Dragons.
In other Captains notes:
Two of the Cleveland’s minor league affiliates enjoyed come-from-behind wins on Thursday night and shutouts on Friday in continuing strong starts down on the farm for potential future Indians players.
The Lynchburg Hillcats trailed 5-1 in the top of the eighth inning when the club erupted for seven late runs in the final two frames to steal an 8-6 victory over the Frederick Keys on their home turf at Nymeo Field in Maryland on Thursday.
As William Shakespeare almost once said, “It was the winter of our discontent in Eastlake, Ohio, now made glorious by the chill of April.”
Such is the call as another season of Lake County Captains baseball begins on the east side of Cleveland as a new host of young minor league ball players take the stage for, often, their maiden voyage into professional baseball, their hopes set on Progressive Field a mere 20 minutes down Route 2. Their journey will take them many more miles before culminating at the big league stage, for those who make it that far. Some may have their journeys stopped sooner, some may find themselves separated from the Indians in a few seasons. But now, at Classic Park, they are all young, all hopeful, and all ready to work as hard as possible to leave their marks on the Indians system.
The Lake County Captains got THIS close a number of times. Games were decided by one or two runs. They ended both seasons with a winning record, but were still just short of making it to the playoffs for the second year in a row. Despite missing the postseason, it would be a mistake to call this a disappointing season for the Captains.
“It was a great year for a lot of first year guys in this league” Manager Shaun Larkin said of the team. “We saw a lot of guys get better in their individual areas. I thought we played well as a team. There’s a lot of grinding in a full year, and that’s all you can ask for – guys playing for each other the whole time. We gave ourselves a chance to win more often than not. We gave it a run in the first half, gave it a run in the second half up until about a week and a half ago. We had a winning record in both halves, we weren’t one of those teams who was hot one half and not the next.”
Larkin, in his first season as a manager, can now say that he’s been part of the only two Captains teams in the history of the franchise to end the season with winning records in both halves (2003 and 2015).
It isn’t easy for Bobby Ison to be spending the season in Eastlake, Ohio – and not for the usual reasons, either. Ison doesn’t find Eastlake difficult because of the weather and he doesn’t harbor ill feelings toward Cleveland. No, Eastlake is hard for Ison because it’s so far from home.
But Ison doesn’t have typical homesickness for Goose Creek, South Carolina. It’s not that he misses the comforts of his own bed or his mom’s homemade dinners. The ache in Ison’s heart comes from being separated from his family – most notably, being separated from his brother.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was three years old,” Ison says as we begin talking about his baseball career in South Carolina. “I wanted to play close to home in college so my brother could see me play for all three years. That was an unbelievable experience.” He pauses and turns away.
“Sorry. I’m a little choked up.”