Image: TCP Photography/Courtesy Lake County Captains

It seems like every time the Great Lakes Loons come to Classic Park to face the Lake County Captains, the Loons leave hitting enough home runs to leave a trail of baseball breadcrumbs to follow while they head back up I-75. And that’s saying something since Lake County’s pitching staff the last two years especially have been loaded with talent. This last trip into Eastlake this past week didn’t feature quite as many homers, but Great Lakes did take four of six from Lake County, including a 10-9 slugfest in the finale where the Captains actually outhomered the Loons, 4-3. Four of the six games, including Lake County’s two wins, were well-pitched despite the loss. 

As of May May 17, Lake County sits 3 ½ games back of Great Lakes, which is in second place in the Midwest East. Dayton has a seven-game lead on Lake County currently while the Captains are in Iowa this week to face Cedar Rapids. 

It appears they will still have Gavin Williams for this trip, as he is slated to pitch for Lake County on Friday. We thought that Williams’ last start last Friday where he helped the Captains get one of their two wins by allowing a run on five hits in 5.2 innings, walking one and striking out six. 

Results

5/11/22: L – Great Lakes Loons 5, Lake County Captains 2
5/12/22: W – Lake County Captains 2, Great Lakes Loons 1
5/13/22: W – Lake County Captains 4, Great Lakes Loons 3
5/14/22: L – Great Lakes Loons 8, Lake County Captains 2
5/15/22: L – Great Lakes Loons 10, Lake County Captains 9
5/17/22: W – Lake County Captains 5, Cedar Rapids Kernels 1

Prospect of the Week

INF Angel Martinez: 8-19, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 2BB/1K, SB – .421/.476/.579

It was an eventful week for Martinez, who was responsible for two of the Captain’s wins this week. He had a go ahead double in the eighth inning in Lake County’s 2-1 win on Thursday and the game winning hit in Lake County’s 4-3 win the next week. He’s been as consistent as advertised all year along and came up big in two spots this week, and authored a good week all around.

Who’s Hot

RHP Tanner Bibee: 6IP, 3H, ER, 9K/2BB

For the third straight start, Bibee finished five innings and this time he set a career high in strikeouts. The first year pro now has a 1.30 ERA in 27.2 innings with 45 strikeouts and six walks. He’s dominated every bit as much as Gavin Williams, if not more, to this point.

1B/3B Jhonkensy Noel: 6-21, 2B, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 8K/2BB, SB – .286/.375/.762 – 

A two homer game in the 10-9 loss to Great Lakes on Sunday sort of salvaged Noel’s week. He’s only hitting .228 but has nine homers and is slugging .554. He’s still got contact issues, but he’s putting together extra base hits when he makes contact.

OF Connor Kokx: 6-14, 2BB/K, SB – .429/.500/.429

Kokx only has a .600 OPS this year. Given his skill set, it seemed like he’d start the year off on a better note. He didn’t collect an extra base hit this week, but he did put together some hits and maybe this will be the start of something.

RHP Cade Smith: 3.1IP, H, R, BB, 7K

RHP Zach Hart: 2IP, 6K

The bullpen for Lake County has been hit or miss this year, but confusing because of all the piggybacking. But Smith and Hart both had solid weeks in the pen, combining to not allow an earned run in a 5.1 innings with 13 strikeouts between the two of them.

Who’s Not

OF Petey Halpin: 4-25, 2B, RBI, 7K/2BB, SB – .160/.222/.200

After a quick week or two to start the season, Halpin has had a hard time finding many hits. The quality of his at bats are good and he still has solid on-base skills. He’s had some issues with breaking stuff but the at bats have been somewhat encouraging.

LHP Doug Nikhazy: 2IP, 4H, 3ER, 2HR, BB, 3K

Unlike Bibee, Nikhazy hasn’t been able to get deep into starts. He’s had a good few innings, like this week, where he struck out two in the first, but then fell apart quickly after. Some of it sounds like he’s searching for his control early in starts and some talented SEC arms like Nikhazy have a mentality of understanding they will be around to get locked in throughout the game, but in the pro’s, the foot has to be on the gas right away.

“For a lot of college guys, its about recognizing how to come out of the gate little quicker than maybe you have the luxury in college. In college, maybe he goes back out there. You have the luxury of feeling your way through your outing, knowing you’re going to go 100 to 110 pitches at the collegiate level every time you toe the rubber. Here’ you don’t have that luxury. It’s a different mindset for guys. You have to pound the strike zone and not nibble. In the pros, you have really good hitters from the top of the lineup to the bottom. You’re trying to nibble at times. You’re trying not to throw the ball down the middle like you could get away with in college. As a result you find yourself in deeper counts and chased in outings at times. It’s a steady balance of both. Guys trying to learn when to pound the strike zone early and get ahead without conceding the big part of the plate. Learning to come out of the gates a little bit quicker. You’ll see that a lot. You saw that a lot with Tanner Burns last year. With college guys you see it here, and early, guys figuring out pitching in the first inning and finding out ‘we’re on the clock here and have to get going and not wait till you’re sixth inning to get your stuff to go.” 

Captains manager Greg DiCenzo

Transactions

5/17/22: RHP Zach Hart assigned to Lake County Captains from ACL Guardians

On Deck

5/18/22-5/22/22 at Cedar Rapids

5/24/22-5/29/22 at Peoria

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