The water poured down with no signs of stopping. On any normal day, the game would more than likely have been called. But, playoffs were on the line. The team was going to do everything in their power to make sure a game happened.
Despite their best efforts, however, Monday night’s game against the Kane County Cougars was cancelled. Playoffs in the immediate future or not, the rain was too much and washed away the Captains last home game before the Midwest League All-Star break next week. The team had won six games in a row prior to Monday night’s rainout.
For the second year in a row, the Lake County Captains have clawed their way into a playoff berth as the first half of the season draws to a close. The team is 34-28 on the season and is two games out of first place in their division. It’s a little surprising, as it seems to be in many recent years, for the Captains to have such a shot at the Midwest League playoffs.
Last season, the Captains went all the way to the championship series before being swept by Kane County. The Captains had power hitters and big-name prospects last year, including Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, and Mike Papi, who have all moved on the High-A Lynchburg this season. Coming into 2015, the Captains roster was made up of some interesting names. Prospects such as Bobby Bradley, Justus Sheffield, and Francisco Meija graced the roster. But they were paired with players who weren’t as highly touted. Despite this, however, the Captains have made a name for themselves.
Much of their success can be attributed to Manager Shaun Larkin, who, despite the Low-A mantra of, “development, development, development,” clearly plays to win. He still puts importance on improvement throughout the season, but it’s clear he enjoys a win just as much as he enjoys watching someone’s bat movement improve throughout the season.
And the attitude is working.
Not only have the Captains gotten off to a winning first half, they have had a number of strong players emerge from within their ranks, earning not only organizational acclaim, but notice from the entire Midwest League, as well.
Bobby Bradley and Sean Brady swept the Midwest League Player and Pitcher of the Week awards for the week of June 8-14. Bradley, who missed 19 games earlier in the season with an oblique injury, hit. 409 in six games during the week. He had four home runs, a triple, a double, and 10 RBI.
Lake County Hitting Coach Larry Day said he’s unsure if he wants to label Bradley a power hitter just yet – Bradley is only 19 – but acknowledged that the youngster, drafted last year out of Harrison Central High School, can certainly hit home runs.
Bradley said that his work ethic since returning from his oblique injury has not been deterred. While he is being cautious and watching what he swings at, Bradley isn’t limiting himself at the plate. He said he’s been working hard in the cages and working on seeing the ball better during his hot streak.
Of players who have been with the Captains for the majority of the season, Bradley ranks second in average with .279 on the season. He leads the team with his 11 home runs and three triples, as well as his 35 RBI. His .969 OPS is also the team’s highest for players who have spent most of the season in Eastlake.
Brady, a 21 year old starting pitcher out of Florida, was 2-0 during the week of June 8-14. He pitched 12 innings and allowed only one run on five hits. He walked four batters and struck out 11. On the season, Brady has a 5-3 record and 2.88 ERA. He has pitched in 12 games, amassing 65.2 innings of work. Brady was a 2013 draftee out of Ida Baker High School in Florida and spent last season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers before making one appearance with the Captains. With the Scrappers, Brady went 2-4 with a 2.79 ERA, striking out 44 batters and walking 27 in 71 total innings.
Brady currently leads the Captains in innings pitched, and is fourth on the team in strikeouts.
Though neither player is going to the Midwest League All-Star Game – those honors are bequeathed to Sheffield and Claudio Bautista – Bradley and Brady are two of the Captains’ strongest players heading into the second half of the season, and will need to keep the momentum up to propel the Captains into, possibly, a repeat playoff appearance later this season.
Photo: Lianna Holub/MiLB.com