While plenty of focus has been given to the big name free agents departing the Cleveland Indians organization this offseason, there has been plenty of movement down on the farm for the club’s minor league free agent class.
The names are nowhere near as big as Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, and Joe Smith, who have all signed lucrative contracts in Philadelphia, Colorado, and Houston, respectively, nor are they as big as Jay Bruce, who is still testing the free agent waters while waiting for the right deal, but the moves cut into some of the existing depth in the team’s minor league system.
A five-run fifth inning by the Pelicans was too much for the Lynchburg Hillcats to overcome as Myrtle Beach evened up the Mills Cup Championship Series with an 8-3 win on Sunday night.
Three straight Hillcats hits to start the game put the club in position for an early lead against Pelicans starter Jeremy Null. Tyler Krieger, Francisco Mejia, and Anthony Santander each reached on grounders before Bobby Bradley grounded into a double play. Krieger scored to give Lynchburg a 1-0 lead, but the twin killing derailed the early threat.
Myrtle Beach tied it up in the home half of the first against Lynchburg’s Brock Hartson. Charcer Burks walked to start the frame and advanced to second on a passed ball by Mejia. Donnie Dewees sacrificed him to third and after a walk by David Bote, freshly called up 19-year-old prospect Eloy Jimenez grounded to third to tie the game on the out at first.
With two on and nobody out in the top of the 12th inning, an error by Myrtle Beach allowed the go-ahead run to score for Lynchburg and the Hillcats held on in the bottom half of the frame to claim a 4-3 victory in the Mills Cup Championship Series opener on Saturday night.
The Hillcats never trailed, but let the Pelicans back into the game several times throughout the night before clinching the contest for good in extras
Lynchburg took a 1-0 lead in the second against Myrtle Beach starter Erick Leal. Three straight singles from Yu-Cheng Chang, Connor Marabell, and Yonathan Mendoza pushed Chang across with the first run of the game. Those names would all come up big much later on in the night.
Staring down elimination from the Carolina League playoffs, Lynchburg needed extra innings to extend its season at least one more day as Bobby Bradley’s 14th inning single to right with the bases loaded and two down gave the Hillcats a 6-5 walk-off victory in a dramatic postseason win over the Potomac Nationals.
P-Nats reliever Neil Holland was on for his second inning of work to start the 14th when Yonathan Mendoza singled to left to start the inning. Taylor Murphy dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner up before Tyler Krieger grounded sharply off of Holland, who lost his glove but was able to recover the ball in time to throw Krieger out at first for the second out. With the winning run standing at third base, the Nationals elected to intentionally walk both Francisco Mejia and Anthony Santander, setting up force plays around the diamond, but bringing up the Carolina League MVP Bradley. As his award might suggest of his abilities, he came through with the clutch liner into right field, scoring Mendoza with the winning run.
The Captains began life without Francisco Mejia and Tyler Krieger last week but after dropping three straight games during the week, they used a pair of walk-off wins and a five-hit shutout on Sunday to sweep the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Classic Park.
The three-game sweep for the Captains was their first sweep and series win as a whole since taking three from Lansing from June 7 to 9. The wins pulled the Captains over the .500 mark with a 6-5 record in the second half. They trail the South Bend Cubs, who took three of four from the Captains earlier last week, by three games in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division.
In other notes from the Captains log:
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:
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.
It seems like an unlikely match, but instead, it might be the perfect one.
Former big leaguer Ted Kubiak will lead the Mahoning Valley Scrappers into New York-Penn League action this evening for the third straight season. The Scrappers open at Jamestown against the Jamestown Jammers at 7:05 p.m. Kubiak manages a team that has several players on it that weren’t born 21 years ago, when he began providing minor league instruction with the Cleveland Indians.
But, for a 72-year old who has two World Series rings and a 10-year big league career under his belt, Kubiak enjoys the challenge and development of managing the Short Season-A team.
“It’s different, we’re developing,” Kubiak said on Thursday. “We’re more or less letting these kids play. What I’m imparting to them is maybe a little bit of how to deal with the game. We can teach them all the fundamentals, but I think what they see in how we handle things can calm them down a little bit.”