For the second time this season, an offensive tear at the plate has earned Lake County’s Will Benson the Midwest League’s Player of the Week honor.
Working with the Indians’ Class-A Captains affiliate for the second straight year, the 20-year-old and 2016 first rounder used his lumber well in a nine-hit week between May 13 and May 19 that featured three home runs and five runs batted in. He previously won the second of the Midwest League awards handed out for the 2019 season for his four-homer game hit during games played between April 15 and April 21 and also earned the final award given out by the league during the 2018 season.
The Captains returned home after an off day on Sunday, May 12, to host a seven-game homestand with Fort Wayne and Bowling Green. The hulking 6’5″ left-hander Benson did not play in the series opener of the three-game set with the Lugnuts on Monday, as the Captains won 4-3.
Benson was in the starting lineup and batted third as the team’s designated hitter in game two of the series. He went 1-for-4 on the night with a single and two strikeouts. His at bat in the bottom of the sixth was a key one in the game, as he singled to right with one out. He stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher and scored easily on a single to left by Mitch Reeves to tie the game at four. The Captains, who had lost an early 3-1 lead, rallied again in the bottom of the eighth on a one-out triple by Tyler Freeman, who scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Fort Wayne reliever Jose Quezada.
Lake County looked for the sweep on Wednesday and put up their third-largest run total of the season and biggest since April 18 at home against South Bend. Benson was at the heart of the offensive production, going 3-for-5 with three RBI and three runs scored in the 10-6 win. The Captains sent eight men to the plate in a three-run first, with Benson driving in Quentin Holmes on a one-out single to right. He advanced to third on the errant throw to the plate and scored on a single by five-hitter Ruben Cardenas. Benson batted again in the second and scored Holmes again, but did so in far easier fashion on his seventh home run of the season to give the Captains a 5-1 lead. Benson tallied his third hit in three trips with a single to right in the fifth before he stole second, moved to third on a throw to the plate, and came in to score on a single by Jesse Berardi. He struck out in his final two at bats in the sixth and eighth.
The Captains opened their four-game set with the Bowling Green Hot Rods on Thursday. Benson had a pair of hits in four trips. He had the first of three straight two-out singles by the Captains in the bottom of the first, but he was thrown out for the final out trying to score from second. He flied out to end the third and popped out to close the sixth, but his next hit in the air took a while to land as he cleared the wall in the bottom of the eighth with his eighth home run of the season to put the Captains up, 4-3. Lake County’s Manuel Alvarez blew the save in the top of the ninth to allow Bowling Green to tie the game, but a pair of wild pitches in the tenth gave the Captains a wild walk-off win.
Benson was held hitless over the next two games against Bowling Green on Friday and Saturday, going 0-for-3 in each contest with a walk and a strikeout.
He made up for those brief struggles at the dish with another multi-hit game on Sunday, his third of the week. The Captains once again needed late game heroics, as their eighth run of the day in the bottom of the tenth closed out the team’s homestand with another walk-off win. With the Captains already up 2-0 in the first, Benson grounded out to first, but he got into the hit column in the third with a one-out single to right. He trotted home with his first run of the day on a home run by Miguel Jerez. He was intentionally walked in the fifth after a one-out triple by Cardenas and he picked off his 12th base of the year before being stranded at second. He recorded his second hit of the game in the seventh, drilling a two-out solo homer to right-center to tie the game at five. Bowling Green claimed a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth, but Benson started another Captains rally with a leadoff single to center. He scored on the game-tying two-run shot from Jerez (his second homer of the game and his third of the year), and Lake County walked it off in the bottom of the next inning as Hosea Nelson scored on a one-out single by Freeman to win it.
For the week, Benson was 9-for-23 (.391) with six singles, three homers, and five RBI. He drew three walks and was a perfect 3-for-3 swiping bases. He boosted his season batting average 26 points over the course of his six games.
In his first 37 games through Sunday’s action, Benson had posted a .267/.360/.550 slash with eight doubles, one triple, nine homers, and 28 RBI. He has struggled still with the strikeout (52 in 150 plate appearances), but he has been an effective threat on the base paths, swiping 13 of 14 this year.
Photo: Tim Phillis/Lake County Captains