South Bend, Ind. First baseman Rudy Flores hit a towering three-run home run in the first inning to lead the South Bend Silver Hawks to a 7-4 victory over the Lake County Captains at Coveleski Regional Stadium on Thursday night. Flores finished the night 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, four RBIs and two runs scored as the Hawks evened up the three game series at a game apiece.
South Bend (63-39, 19-14) took command of the game in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. Second baseman Fidel Pena led off with a single to left. Right fielder Socrates Brito hit a hard ground ball off the first base bag for a single that advanced Pena around to third. Brito stole second base and third baseman Brandon Drury hit a ground ball to short that drove home Pena for a 1-0 lead. Drury reached first when the Captains shortstop could not field the grounder cleanly. Flores took advantage of the misplay when he launched the first pitch he saw from Jake Sisco (4-8) off the top portion of the scoreboard beyond the right-center field wall for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.
Lake County (39-60, 16-16) got a run back in the top of the second against Hawks starting pitcher Brad Allen (5-6). Allen started the inning by plunking Captains first baseman Joe Sever. Sever advanced to second on a ground out. With two outs in the inning, Zack MacPhee ripped an RBI double down the right field line, scoring Sever and cutting the Hawks lead to 4-1.
The Hawks stretched the lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the third with the help of some shoddy defense by the Captains. Brito led off with a bunt single that the Captains catcher picked up and fired into right field allowing Brito to advance to second on the throwing error. Drury was then hit by a pitch. Flores picked up his fourth RBI of the night with a single to left that scored Brito and advanced Drury to third. A poor throw to third base by the left fielder allowed Flores to go to second on the error. Drury came in to score one batter later on a passed ball by Jeremy Lucas that gave South Bend a five-run lead.
Lake County, the Class-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, pulled a run closer in the top of the fourth. Sever led off the inning with an infield single to short. Lucas singled to right and Sever went to third when Brito booted the ball in right. Allen induced a double play from designated hitter Eric Haase but Sever scored on the play, cutting the lead to 6-2. The Captains then cut the lead even further to 6-3 in the top of the fifth inning. Second baseman Yhoxian Medina hit a ground rule double down the right field line to lead off the inning. He went to third on a passed ball and scored when Todd Hankins hit an RBI groundout to short.
South Bend, the Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, got a seventh run off of Sisco in the bottom of the fifth. Flores led off with a double to the center field wall. He advanced to third on a dropped fly ball by Captains right fielder Jorge Martinez. Designated hitter Michael Perez drove Flores home with a line drive single to right field. That would end Sisco’s night as Jimmy Stokes entered the game and managed to escape the jam with no further damage.
The Hawks bullpen closed the game out for Allen, allowing just one run in the last three innings after Allen threw six innings of three-run ball for the win. Thomas Brendel surrendered an unearned run in the eighth inning. Center fielder Logan Vick led off with a walk. Vick was forced out at second base on a ground ball to shortstop by Sever. Lucas grounded a single to right field that advanced Sever to third. Sever then scored when Brito airmailed the throw to third base that hit off the top of the wall down the third base line and kicked straight up in the air, allowing Sever to score and cut the lead to 7-4. Hawks closer Enrique Burgos (S, 12) made sure the Captains didn’t get any closer, pitching a scoreless ninth inning for his twelfth save of the season.
The Hawks and Captains will meet in the rubber game of the three-game series on Friday night at the Cove. Left-hander Ryan Merritt (6-9, 3.56 ERA) will get the start for the Captains while Robert Coe (2-1, 1.57 ERA) takes the ball for the Hawks. Come to the Cove to celebrate another Fireworks Friday as the Silver Hawks’ famous fireworks spectacular will be going on after the game. There will also be another round of Barefoot Refresh wine tastings. Finally, make sure to get to the stadium early as the first 2,000 fans through the gate will receive a free Silver Hawks’ poster.