LANSING, Mich. – The Lansing Lugnuts (42-19) scored six quick runs and fended off a furious comeback attempt by the Lake County Captains (29-32), clinching the first half Eastern Division title with a 6-5 victory before a Saturday night crowd of 7,515 at Cooley Law School Stadium.
It is the Lugnuts’ first division title since 2008, when Lansing won the first half division title with a record of 39-31.
In addition to a win of the opener in this three-game series against the Captains, the Lugs are now one game away from tying the franchise record for wins in a half which is 43 set in the second half of 2007.
Captains starter Elvis Araujo (Loss, 2-5) recorded just two outs in a disastrous first inning, as Lansing took the lead for good. The first five Lugnuts in the lineup scored a run, and Gustavo Pierre delivered a key two-out RBI single in the first frame to knock out Araujo.
In all, the Lugnuts sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first, collecting four hits, three walks, one hit by pitch and two stolen bases, including a swipe of home by Markus Brisker -- which proved to be the eventual winning run.
Captains relievers Mason Radeke, Manny Carmona and Rob Nixon provided admirable relief after Araujo’s poor start, tossing 8 1/3 scoreless innings. Lansing notched just one hit, a Brisker infield single, after a Kevin Pillar leadoff double in the second inning.
Lake County chipped away against the early deficit, with Bryson Myles and Alex Lavisky stroking back-to-back RBI doubles in a three-run third inning off Lugnuts starter David Rollins (Win, 5-0).
The Lugs lefty lasted five innings and allowed four runs, three of which were earned, on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Reliever Eric Brown threw three innings and allowed just one run on three hits before All-Star Ajay Meyer fired a perfect ninth inning to record his Midwest League-leading 19th save this season.
Pillar notched the only multi-hit game by a Lugnut, supplying a 2-for-3 day with a double, RBI and a run scored.
Lansing goes for the series victory on Sunday, June 10th at 2:05 p.m., a “Bark in the Park” Kids Day. Families are invited to play catch on the field before the game with Kids Run the Bases after the game.
The Lugnuts starter has yet to be announced but right-handed All-Star Joe Colon (5-2, 2.78) will start for Lake County.