Photo credit: TCP Photography/Courtesy Lake County Captains
Mason Hickman was the starter for the Lake County Captains and had a very up and down outing. He deployed his whole arsenal, keeping opposing hitters off-balance from the first pitch. He worked the fastball to the edges of the zone to get called strikes early in counts before forcing hitters to expand by tunneling his secondary pitches.
The former Vanderbilt pitcher struck out two Dayton batters in the first two innings that he threw, which foreshadowed the dominant game he had to keep his team in contention for a playoff spot. He tunneled his entire arsenal effectively, keeping hitters uncomfortable and unproductive for a large majority of his time on the mound.
“Kudos to Cleveland, they do a great job trying to teach us how to use data to our advantage. They harp on how disguising things and keeping hitters off balance will make us successful pitchers. If opposing hitters are not sure what is coming, it forces them to react instead of anticipating and sitting on a specific pitch. Tunnelling makes hitting a lot harder and pitching a lot easier.” – Mason Hickman
He was in rhythm with his catcher Mike Amditis throughout his outing, working quickly and intentionally. He threw 53 of his 93 pitches for strikes, striking out seven and walking four in the process. He allowed five hits, four earned runs, and made it through five and two-thirds innings. Despite the team winning, Hickman was not pleased with his performance and was well aware of what went wrong.
“All you’re trying to do as a starting pitcher is leave your team in a spot where they can win a baseball game. The way I left the game when I exited was not ideal. That is a tough spot and high pressure situation to put Ocker in. THe takeaway is that I have to finish the way I started. Staying focused and making adjustments is the big thing, because I did not do that as the game went on.” – Mason Hickman
He bobbed and weaved his way through trouble until he walked the bases loaded in a 1-1 game with two outs before handing the ball to his manager and heading to the dugout. Subsequently, relief pitcher Nate Ocker allowed a grand slam which busted the game wide open with three of those runs being earned by Hickman. Ocker threw one total inning with one earned run charged to him in the grand slam, striking out two and walking none. The relief pitcher from Middletown, Pennsylvania got the win in the comeback victory. Zach Draper pitched two innings of scoreless relief, earning the save for the game.
The Lake County position player group had plenty of opportunities to score early in the game but the offense sputtered repeatedly. While they did not have much success at the plate garnering hits, the lineup drew ten walks on the night and those ten walks are the reason that Lake County is still on the heels of Great Lakes for a playoff spot. The position player group used its on base skills to put pressure on the Dayton pitching staff since the hits were not falling, and it paid off.
The group’s baserunning prowess made positive dividends, as they took advantage of two hit-by-pitches, four wild pitches, and two errors to score six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and take a two run lead. Despite being the youngest position player group in the High-A Central, they have frequently shown the ability to find ways to get on base and create opportunities to score runs by their own fruition or with assistance in the form of errors and similar mistakes by the defense.
“We did not want to lose the game. We told each other that we did not care what the score was. We wanted to win this game because we want to get to the playoffs. We may be young, but we’re getting more mature and better every single game. I love seeing the guys I signed with during the 2017 J2 Class(Tena, Noel, etc.) succeed. We all signed together, and growing up together and playing together is big. I was just trying to put the ball in play or get a walk during that rally, and go first to third if its hit to right-center. I told myself: ‘this moment is for the team, not just for me’.” – INF Aaron Bracho
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