SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Shortstop Andrew Velazquez laced a game-tying inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the ninth and catcher Michael Perez drew a bases loaded walk as the South Bend Silver Hawks (12-5, 52-34) won a wild 8-7 game victory over the Lake County Captains (9-8, 36-51) at Four Winds Field on Sunday afternoon. Lake County third baseman Grant Fink hit a two-run homerun with two outs in the ninth to give the Captains a 7-6 lead before the Hawks comeback in the bottom of the ninth to give South Bend its ninth consecutive victory.
Velazquez ended any suspense about keeping his on-base streak alive right away as he laced the third pitch of the game off of the Captains pitcher for an infield single. The hit extended his on-base streak to a minor-league best 66 games. The Hawks eventually loaded the bases with two outs in the inning but could not push across a run in the bottom of the first off Captains starter Luis Lugo.
South Bend, the Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, did manage to take the lead in the bottom of the second. With two outs, center fielder Breland Almadova doubled to the base of the center field wall. Velazquez followed with a high fly to right that dropped in between the right fielder, first baseman, and second baseman for an RBI single and a 1-0 Hawks lead.
The Hawks added a second run in the bottom of the third inning. Left fielder Chuck Taylor lined a single to left to lead off the inning and the ball caromed off the glove of Captains’ left fielder Brian Ruiz for a two-base error, allowing Taylor to advance to third. Lugo struck out the next batter before walking designated hitter Daniel Palka to put runners at the corners. Herum then singled to left, scoring Taylor and moving Palka to second for a 2-0 South Bend lead.
Lake County, the Class-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, struck back with a run in the top of the fourth off Hawks starter John Omahen. Catcher Eric Haase hit a grounder up the middle that Velazquez knocked down with a diving effort but still resulted in an infield single. First baseman Nellie Rodriguez then continued his strong series with a lined single to left, advancing Haase to second. Omahen struck out right fielder Torsten Boss for the first out of the inning but then gave up a single to Fink to load the bases. A wild pitch followed, scoring Haase to cut the lead to 2-1. Omahen settled down to retire the next two batters on short fly balls to end the inning with the 2-1 lead and strand runners at second and third.
The Hawks got the run back right away by scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning. Second baseman Ryan Gebhardt walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Almadova advanced Gebhardt to third with a sacrifice bunt to bring up Velazquez. Velazquez hit a chopper to third and Fink tried to get the runner at the plate but Gebhardt beat the throw with a head first slide for a 3-1 lead.
The Captains struck back with a run of their own in the top of the fifth inning. Omahen retired the first two batters in order to bring up designated hitter Clint Frazier. Frazier launched the first pitch he saw over the right field fence for a solo home run that cut the lead to 3-2. After allowing back-to-back singles following the homer, Omahen retired Boss on a ground ball to second to escape the first and third jam.
South Bend extended their lead by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Designated hitter Joe Munoz led off the inning with a double to left field that extended his hitting streak to a league-leading 16 games. Palka followed with a check swing single that just stayed fair down the third base line to put runners at first and second. Herum lofted a double down the left field line that scored Munoz and advanced Palka to third. Catcher Michael Perez drove in the fifth run of the game for the Hawks with a sacrifice fly that knocked Lugo from the game and brought in Justin Brantley from the pen. Brantley retired the first batter he faced but surrendered an infield single to Gebhardt that scored Herum for a 6-2 Hawks lead.
Lake County refused to go quietly in the late innings as the Captains rallied back for three runs in the top of the seventh inning. John Shuttlesworth came in to start the seventh in relief of Omahen. Omahen allowed just two runs over 6 innings while striking out 5 Captains. Second baseman Claudio Bautista led off with a single to right. Frazier followed with a long double to left that scored Bautista to make it a 6-3 game. Shuttlesworth struck out Haase for the first out of the inning before giving up an RBI double to Rodriguez that cut the lead to 6-4. Shuttlesworth retired Boss for the second out of the inning before making way for Will Locante. Locante gave up a line drive double to Fink that scored Rodriguez and made it a one-run game at 6-5. Locante walked shortstop Paul Hendrix before getting Ruiz to hit into a force out to short to end the inning with the lead.
Locante pitched a scoreless eighth inning before giving way to Silvino Bracho (W, 2-0) to start the ninth. Bracho retired the first two batters he faced before hitting Boss to bring up Fink. Fink battled to a 2-2 count and launched a pitch down the left field line for a two-run homer that gave the Captains their first lead of the game at 7-6. Fink was five-for-five in the game with 2 singles, 2 doubles, and the two-run home run.
Trevor Frank (L, 3-4) tried to close out the game for the Captains after having pitched a scoreless eighth. He fell behind Velazquez 3-0 before battling back to a full count. Velazquez then hit a deep fly ball to the left-center field gap. It bounced away from the outfielders and Velazquez raced around the bases for a game-tying inside-the-park home run. Frank surrendered a one-out single to Munoz before being replaced by lefty Anderson Polanco. Polanco walked Palka to put runners at first and second with one out. Herum then hit a grounder to third that was bobbled by the third baseman as he tried to get the out at second. Everyone was safe on the fielding error and the bases were loaded for Perez with just one out. After a meeting on the mound, Polanco was unable to find the strike zone as he walked Perez on four straight pitches to end the game as Munoz crossed the plate with the game-winning run.
The Hawks head out on the road for a seven-game road trip starting on Tuesday with three games at the Dayton Dragons, the Class-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. They then head to Fort Wayne, the Class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, for four games with the TinCaps. The Silver Hawks next return home on Wednesday, July 16th when they take on the Burlington Bees, the Class-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05pm.