The final score in minor league baseball does not always reflect development. Success for young players sometimes comes down to playing well at this time of year rather than wearing themselves out during what for many is their first full professional season.
While the Friday night lights have returned and the baseball schedule has almost passed the August heatwave, Aaron Davenport’s start in the Lake County Captains’ 6-0 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels on August 27 it’s further proof that a group of players is winning better and not wearing out as the season goes on. The victory brought the Captains’ August record to 17-6 and a two-game lead in a playoff run against West Michigan.
In his last outing against West Michigan, the team with which Lake County is fighting for a Midwest League playoff spot, Davenport pitched into the seventh inning (6 2/3 innings) allowing one run despite scattering 10 hits. in the Captains. In his Aug. 27 outing against Cedar Rapids, the 2021 sixth-round pick took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowed a two-out double. He ended his outing by striking out Kernels catcher Charles Mack on three pitches, getting the blow on a high fastball that he successfully hit throughout the game.
“I don’t know if I’m telling you the truth,” Davenport said when asked if he knew he had a no-hitter. “You have an idea that you are pitching well. That guy gave him a good swing. Overall not bad. I went out with my best stuff and attacked hitters.”
Pretty strong start so far for Aaron Davenport. He walked in the second, but got a K on a 95 MPH FB in the zone here. pic.twitter.com/zwR5OFZMdn
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 27, 2022
Davenport seemed to get better results the further into the game he got. In his sixth and final inning, even though the double was the first hit he allowed, he only threw 12 pitches in the inning and struck out two.
8 Ks for Aaron Davenport who has been up to 95 tonight. pic.twitter.com/9meMrixW36
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 27, 2022
Instead of wearing pitchers down through August and past, Davenport could have been at his best the past two starts. His start in the win over Cedar Rapids marked the first time all season that he’s worked into the sixth inning or into the sixth inning in consecutive starts, which matches what Davenport has felt about his season thus far, as well as the Captains manager Greg DiCenzo.
“Everything has been sharper,” DiCenzo said of the University of Hawaii right-handed pitcher. “You’ve seen the composure he has now compared to three, four, five months ago. He’s a professional pitcher now, and it’s not like he wasn’t before five months ago. But he looks like, acts like, walks like, talks like. You know it when you see it and when you see it touching the rubber”.
Aaron Davenport on his start tonight and the development of pitching in the Cleveland organization. pic.twitter.com/cM60r3AeEN
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 28, 2022
A team of pitching hailing from the collegiate ranks has carried the Captains roster for much of the 2022 season with a group of younger position players hailing largely from the high school and international ranks. That group has also been able to grow and continue to improve as the season has progressed.
A pair of highly experienced High-A hitters, Aaron Bracho and Joe Naranjo, homered for the Capitanes in the third inning.
Petey Halpin, who has also been a late-summer revelation, sparked another offensive burst to increase the lead in the sixth with a double to left-center. A throwing error by Mack got Halpin to third, and Connor Kokx drove in with a sacrifice fly. Gabriel Rodriguez singled, stole a base and ended up scoring on Korey Holland’s double despite receiving a stop sign at third base. The Netherlands also scored from an error on the same shot.
“I have a lot of early work, they’re not used to that,” DiCenzo said. “There’s a lot on your plate between one and four or five, whatever the whole day is. And then they have to go out and compete and until they get used to recognizing what that looks like at seven o’clock and how to push themselves in those first few hours and use the seven o’clock time frame as a barometer for how that development went. Until they recognize that, you will have many failures along the way. Our position players are certainly a little further behind than our pitchers. Our pitchers just arrived from Arizona, they are ready to roll. They come out here and push it out the door, even though the weather isn’t cooperative early in the year for any of the shelters. But they’ve kept us in the games all year. Our position players are now starting to adjust to their routines and recognize what a full day looks like for a professional athlete, especially here in Lake County for me.”
The Capitanes wrap up the series with the Kernels on Aug. 28 at 1 pm Doug Nikhazy (4-4, 3.16) will also try to continue one of his best starts on Aug. 23 to start this series. Cedar Rapids’ starting pitcher is TBA.