All-Star Game Win Sends Captains, Manager Larkin into Second Half

If Tuesday night’s Midwest League All-Star Game was any indication, the Lake County Captains are in for an exciting second half of their season.

Led by Captains Manager Shaun Larkin, the Eastern Division team stole the show with a 5-0 victory over the Western Division. Although neither Captain representative started for the name, pitcher Justus Sheffield and infielder Claudio Bautista each had their chance to play in the big game for their regular coaching staff.

Sheffield came on to pitch for the Eastern Division in the second inning, relieving All-Star starter and Cubs prospect Jeremy Null. Null allowed one hit and struck out three batters in his outing. Sheffield fared similarly, striking out two, walking one, and allowing only one hit.

In the third inning, Tejay Antone allowed one hit and struck out none, but kept the Western Division from advancing around the bases. The rest of the Eastern Division’s pitching staff were just as strong, with no one giving up a hit after Antone in the third, and no walks being allowed aside from Sheffield’s in the second inning.

Offensively, the Eastern Division also excelled, amassing eight hits in nine innings with five of those amounting to runs scored. They made their mark early, as Ryan McBroom (who also won the pre-game home run derby) singled to score Anthony Alford and give the Eastern Division a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Larkin, an All-Star third baseman with the Captains himself in 2003, is quoted on as saying: “Home run derbies can be fun, but sometimes they can get in the player’s head and they can change their swings. But he got a good swing on it and drove it and got us a lead.”

Bautista made his first appearance for the Eastern Division in the sixth inning. He singled in his first at-bat and struck out once, going 1-for-2 on his night. Jace Conrad was the only Eastern Division player to hit more than a single during the game as he eked out a double in the fourth inning.

Prior to the game, which was hosted by the Peoria Chiefs in Peoria, Illinois, batters also participated in a home run derby, in which they hit from center field toward the stands in order to give fans a chance to catch their home run balls.

Bautista told the Peoria Journal Star that he had never before hit backwards into the stands. Only 15 home runs were hit in total during the derby, with McBroom hitting five to win.

With the All-Star break over as suddenly as it began, and the Midwest League resuming normal playing action today, the Captains continue to be right in the thick of the playoff hunt as the second half of the season gets underway.

The Captains narrowly missed out on a chance to secure a playoff spot in the first half, as their 36-32 first half record trails the 42-28 Lansing Lugnuts, the 38-30 Great Lakes Loons, and the 39-31 Dayton Dragons.

Across the league, the Captains are in the middle to the bottom of the league in batting, as they are hitting .244 as a team. However, they lead the league with 51 home runs. On the pitching side, the team is equally as in the middle with a 3.71 ERA. They are tied for second in the league with 21 saves, and fall nearly exactly in the middle with almost all other pitching stats.

They’re not exactly a team filled with immeasurable talent, but the Captains are indeed a team that’s full of scrappy young players who leave it all on the field. They fought hard in the first half and lost a number of close games with only a few drastic, debilitating losses but, overall are a promising team heading into the second half. As they start their first game of the second half with a clean slate tonight at Classic Park, all eyes will be on the 2015 Captains as they fight to end the season in the same spot they did last year – in the Midwest League Championship Series.

Photo: The Lake County Captains

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