The bottom line in minor league baseball doesn’t always reflect development. Success for young players sometimes looks like playing well this time of year instead of tiring out during the first full professional season for many.
With the Friday night lights back on and the baseball calendar almost past the dog days of August, Aaron Davenport’s start in the Lake County Captains’ 6-0 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Aug. 27 is further evidence of a the group of players who are winning better and not wear out as the season goes on. The win brought the August Captains record to 17-6 and a two-game lead in a playoff race against West Michigan.
In his last outing against West Michigan, the team Lake County is battling for a Midwest League playoff spot, Davenport went seven innings (6 2/3 innings) allowing one run despite distributed 10 hits on 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 capped his outing by striking out three pitches to Kernels catcher Charles Mack, whiffing on a fastball that he successfully hit all game.
“I don’t know to tell you the truth,” Davenport said when asked if he knew he was going to have a no-hitter. “You have an idea that you are throwing well. That guy took a good swing at it. Overall not bad. I came out with my best stuff and attacked the attackers.”
Pretty sharp start so far for Aaron Davenport. Got a walk in the second but got a K on a 95 MPH FB up in the zone here. pic.twitter.com/zwR5OFZMdn
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 27, 2022
Davenport seemed to get better results as he got deeper into the game. In his sixth and final game, despite the double being the first hit he allowed, he threw just 12 pitches while striking out two.
8 Ks to Aaron Davenport who has been up to 95 tonight. pic.twitter.com/9meMrixW36
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 27, 2022
Instead of being worn out by the start of August, Davenport may have been at his best in his last two starts. His start in the win over Cedar Rapids marked the first time all season that he has worked in or through the sixth game of consecutive starts, which is consistent with how Davenport has felt about his season to this point, as and captains manager Greg DiCenzo.
“Everything has been sharper,” DiCenzo said of the University of Hawaii right-hander. “You have seen the calmness that he has now compared to three, four, five months ago. He’s a professional pitcher now, and not that he wasn’t five months ago. But he looks, behaves, walks like that, talks like that. You know it when you see it and when you see it touch the tire.”
Aaron Davenport on his start tonight and pitching development in the Cleveland organization. pic.twitter.com/cM60r3AeEN
— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) August 28, 2022
A pitching staff coming up from the college ranks has bolstered the 2022 roster with a group of younger position players largely coming from the high school and international ranks. That group has also been able to grow and continue to improve as the season progresses.
A pair of hitters with plenty of High-A experience, Aaron Bracho and Joe Naranjo, singled for the Captains in the third inning.
Petey Halpin, who has also been a late-summer revelation, produced another offensive outburst to add to the lead in the sixth with a leadoff double to left-center. A throwing error by Mack allowed Halpin to advance to third and Connor Kokx drove him in with a sac fly. Gabriel Rodriguez singled, stole a base and ended up scoring on Korey Holland’s double despite getting a groundout at third base. Holland also scored on 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 their plate between one and four o’clock or five o’clock, regardless of the full form of the day. And then they have to go out and compete and until they get used to that, figure out what seven o’clock looks like and how to put effort into those early hours and use the seven o’clock time frame as a barometer of how that development went. . Until they figure that out, you’re going to have a lot of failures along the way. Our position players are certainly a bit more behind our posts. Our pitchers are just coming in from Arizona, ready to roll. They come out here and get it right out of the gate, even though the weather isn’t cooperating early in the year for either pit. But they’ve kept us in games all year. Our position players are now starting to settle into their routines and understand what a full day of being a professional athlete looks like, especially here in Lake County for me.”
The Captains wrap up the series with the Kernels on August 28th at 1:00 pm Doug Nikhazy (4-4,3.16) will also look to follow up one of his best outings last time out on August 23rd to start this series. Cedar Rapids home field is TBA.