Photo credit: TCP Photography/Courtesy Lake County Captains

Lake County Captains 6, Great Lakes Loons 5 F/10 

The Captains notched their second walk-off win of the week, 6-5, to tie the series with the Loons at two games apiece.

For the third time in this series, the Loons started the game with a first inning solo home run, this one from Eddys Leonard, who has hit six of his 11 home runs this season at Classic Park. The Loons added a second run in the second after three walks and a wild pitch. The game really got going in the fourth, as another two walks and a pair of doubles for the Loons put them up 5-0. The Captains responded quickly, however, with an RBI single from Milan Tolentino and a two-run double from Korey Holland. They pulled another one back in the seventh with a solo home run from Alexfri Planez, snapping an 0-13 streak going back to Tuesday’s game. Mike Amditis then tied the game with his first home run of the season in the bottom of the ninth to complete Lake County’s comeback. After holding the Loons scoreless in the top of the tenth thanks to a pair of strikeouts by Jordan Jones, an intentional walk to Planez and a bloop single from Petey Halpin loaded the bases. Gabriel Rodriguez sent a deep fly ball to center and Naranjo scampered home to give the Captains a dramatic win.

Nikhazy’s tough start

Doug Nikhazy’s starts have been a bit of a rollercoaster all season and unfortunately, Friday was one of his worst. He lasted 4.1 innings and allowed five runs on four hits and struck out five, but he walked six and struggled with his control all night.

That has been Nikhazy’s biggest issue all season, as he now leads the Midwest league in walks after Friday’s game, which was his eighth of the season with at least four walks. It was also his third six-walk performance.

Since the departures of Gavin Williams and Tanner Bibee, it has fallen on Nikhazy’s shoulders to be one of the next guys up for the Captains. If he continues to struggle with his control, however, it could be a tough end to the season for him.

Strikeouts all over

After the Captains and Loons combined to strike out 26 times in 11 innings Thursday, 16 of them by the Captains, they topped that in just ten innings Friday, combining for 32 strikeouts. Unlike Thursday, however, the strikeouts were much more evenly split in Friday’s game, with 16 for the Captains and 16 for the Loons.

That was thanks in large part to a pair of relievers, one for each team. It was Mason Hickman, often a starter this year, for the Captains, who struck out six in three perfect innings to keep the Loons at bay while the Captains completed their comeback. For Great Lakes, it was High-A debutant River Ryan, who worked four innings of relief and struck out eight while allowing just one run.

Rodriguez plays the hero again

For the second time this week, the Captains walked it off, and for the second time this week, it was Gabriel Rodriguez who delivered the winning hit. After a walk-off solo home run Tuesday, this time it was a bases-loaded sac fly that gave the Captains the winning run.

Rodriguez has been one of Lake County’s hottest hitters over the past month, slashing .313/.408/.470 since the start of July heading into Friday’s game. He wasn’t originally supposed to play, however, as he was forced into action after Milan Tolentino, who started at third, and manager Greg DiCenzo were ejected in the top of the sixth for arguing the called third strike that had ended the fifth.

“I’m really, really happy, it’s something you can’t really describe,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great feeling and hopefully there’s more to come.”

The Captains will be back in action Saturday at 7:00 against the Loons once again, and Jack Leftwich, a 2021 7th-round pick by the Guardians, will be on the mound, facing off against 2021 5th-round pick Ben Casparius.

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