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).
If you had told me four months ago that I’d still be writing about the Lake County Captains this late in the year, I would have laughed. Yes, I’m an optimist, but the first half of Lake County’s season led even the most eternal of optimists to shake their heads. The team won 27 out of their first 70 games — that’s a .386 winning percentage. They were, to be blunt, bad.
They about broke-even at home, going 18-17 in the first half while playing on the new field at Classic Park, but could not pull it together on the road. As they explored the Midwest, the Captains went a paltry 9-26.
Yet, somehow, they turned it around. And here I am, in the middle of September, writing a recap about a season that ended on Saturday, the 13th, when that same under-.400 team played for the Midwest League Championship.
Lake County Captains right handed pitcher Robbie Aviles continued his impressive season to date as he made two starts this past week earning one win while throwing 13 innings, allowing just six hits, three runs, zero walks and striking out seven. Aviles—originally projected to be a first or second round pick out of Suffern High School in Suffern, New York—partially tore the elbow ligament in his right arm a week before the draft, undergoing Tommy John Surgery. The Indians took a chance on Aviles by drafting him in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft, not knowing if he would come back as the first or second round pick he was projected to be. Aviles was able to make his professional debut near the end of the 2011 season after a long rehab. It had to be wondered if Aviles would ever return to pre-Tommy John form that the Indians had gambled on, as he would struggle sporting a 5.22 ERA in the two and a half years after making his professional debut. Still only 22 years of age, Aviles seems to finally be back, as his 2014 season has been nothing less than spectacular ranking second in the Midwest League in both ERA 1.65 and WHIP 0.85 along with only allowing 32 hits and five walks in 43.2 innings of work. Indians fans are hoping that Aviles has regained the form that had him so highly touted before his injury.
The Lake County Captains have got off to a rough start in their 2014 season. Currently, the team is last in the Midwest League with a startling 9-24 record. Despite their on-the-field struggles, however, a quiet leader has emerged within the team.
Grant Fink, a 23 year-old infielder from Spokane, Washington, has been a constant producer for the Captains. He is in the lineup nearly every day, playing a combination of third base and first base, as well as having the opportunity to DH. He makes plays on the field without being showy and is, essentially, one of the backbones and core members of the team. Fink is hitting .236 with the Captains this season, with 25 hits, five doubles, and one home run. He has 11 RBI on the season and has been walked 19 times.