Midwest League: Lansing Drops Two Out of Three to Lake County
Two of the Midwest League’s best offensive teams got together for a three game series as we wrap up this second week of the 2017 baseball season, and we saw a little bit of everything. The Lansing Lugnuts (6-4) came into their home series against the Lake County Captains (5-5) as the Midwest League’s highest scoring team. While big run totals and offensive outbursts were expected between these two teams, the pitching actually outshined the hitting in a couple of the games.
Game One: Lansing 5 vs Lake County 0
In Thursday’s series opener, the Lugnuts sent Patrick Murphy to the mound to take on a fairly tough Lake County lineup. The 22 year old pitches to contact and has never really put up big strikeout numbers, but he did a good job of mixing his high 90’s fastball with his breaking ball to limit the Captains offense to just four hits and no runs in his six innings of work. The bullpen picked up right where Murphy left off as three pitchers combined to finish out the game and the shutout. Offensively for the Lugnuts, Bo Bichette and Bradley Jones were the standouts as they both had two hits, an RBI, and scored a run. Edward Olivares provided some insurance in the bottom of the eighth with a two run homer.
The Captains had highly regarded left handed pitching prospect Brady Aiken go in game one where he got through 4.2 innings while surrendering two runs on four hits. It was the command that ultimately let this one get away from Aiken as he walked seven Lake County batters and struck out just one. Aiken fell to 0-2 on the young season.
Game Two: Lake County 5 @ Lansing 2
Game two saw another outstanding pitching performance, this time from the visiting team. The Captains’ Shane Bieber, allowed just one run on four hits through his six innings of work. Bieber didn’t issue a single walk and struck out 11 of the 22 batters he faced as 61 of his 89 pitches were thrown for strikes, leading to a rather frustrated Lugnut dugout. The Lake County offense got back on track with a three run fourth inning fueled by the back half of the lineup. The red hot Li-Jen Chu hit his second homer of the season, a two run shot to add to the lead in the top of the fifth.
Lansing starter Mike Ellenbest was solid through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth and fifth. He made it through five while allowing all five of the Captains runs on eight hits. A combined bullpen effort between Griffin Glaude and Philip Walby silenced the Captains bats as they went hitless for the last four innings of the ball game. The Lugnuts pushed across one run in the bottom of the ninth on a Yeltsin Gudino RBI single, but a comeback was just not in the cards on this night.
Game Three: Lake County 17 @ Lansing 5
The rubber match of the series was as unique and eventful of a game as you will ever see. There were three ejections in this one as the heated series eventually boiled over. We were knotted at two runs a piece heading into the top of the fourth inning when Lake County erupted for 10 runs. Walks, hit by pitches, and errors all mounted as the Lugnuts struggled to get out of the inning. The final box score was an interesting one due to the fact that the Captains 17 runs came on only 14 hits.
Osman Gutierrez took the loss and fell to 0-2 on the season after he gave up eight runs on five hits and three walks through his three innings of work. He faced six batters in the fourth inning without recording an out before being replaced by Geno Encina. Despite the Lugnuts offense being outshined by what took place in the Captains fourth, there were some positive notes for them at the plate. Bradley Jones hit his second home run of the young season to give the Lugnuts an early 2-1 lead in the first and Michael De La Cruz had a multi hit game to raise his average above .300 before being ejected.
The real star of the series finale was Lake County right fielder, Jose Medina. Medina went 4/5 on the day including three home runs with five RBI and a double, just for good measure. He recorded all of his home runs and all of his RBI on the young season in this one game.
The Lugnuts fall to 6-4 and currently sit one game out of first place in the Eastern division. They have an off day on Sunday before hitting the road for a huge series to take on the first place Dragons in Dayton. The Captains improved to .500 as they are now 5-5 on the season. They will return home to take on the Bowling Green Hot Rods who are off to a 6-4 start.