Whitecaps Advance to Round 2
SOUTH BEND, IN – It took two days and 10 innings, but the West Michigan Whitecaps defeated the South Bend Cubs by a score of 4-3 in Game 3 of the Midwest League Quarterfinals Saturday afternoon, advancing to the Eastern Division Championship series for the second consecutive season.
It looked early in the contest that South Bend may run away with Game 3, taking a 3-0 lead after four innings. An RBI-triple by Connor Myers plated Tyler Alamo in the second. The pair teamed up for the Cubs’ next two runs in the fourth, as Alamo bounced a ground ball off the third base bag, resulting in a run-scoring double. Myers plated Alamo with a triple to bring the score to 3-0. As the fifth inning began Friday night, a steady rain began to pour, but the two teams played on with hopes to complete the game that evening. The Whitecaps vaulted themselves back into the ballgame when Cam Gibson ripped an RBI-single to right field in the fifth to bring the score to 3-1. Joey Havrilak plated Gibson from first base when he lofted a run-scoring double over the head of Cubs outfielder and Midwest League MVP Eloy Jimenez to bring the ‘Caps to a 3-2 deficit. An inning later, David Gonzalez executed a squeeze bunt to perfection to score Arvicent Perez and tie the game at three. In the eighth, with the rain increasing in intensity, Perez reached on an infield single to begin the inning. Jose Azocar stepped to the plate, and after fouling off the first with a failed bunt attempt, play was halted and the decision was made soon-after to suspend the game until Saturday afternoon.
As play resumed on a cool and clear Saturday, more than 20 hours after the game began, Azocar executed a perfect bunt to move Perez to second base, but the ‘Caps failed to score Perez, eventually pushing the game into extra innings. In the tenth, Azocar returned to the plate with one out and Will Allen at second base. The ‘Caps center fielder sent the first pitch he saw past the Cubs diving shortstop Isaac Paredes into center field for a base hit, scoring Allen on a close play at home plate to give West Michigan a 4-3 lead, and the deciding run in the Game 3 victory.
Drew Smith (2-0) earned his second win of the postseason with a pair of scoreless innings in relief, while Jared Cheek (0-1) gave up Azocar’s single in the tenth to take his first postseason defeat of 2016. Mark Ecker pitched a scoreless inning to finish the ballgame and pick up his first save of the playoffs.
The Whitecaps move on to the Eastern Division Championship, and will face the winner of Game 3 between Great Lakes and Bowling Green to be played Saturday evening. Azocar, Perez and Havrilak all chipped in with two hits in the winner-take-all contest. The win for West Michigan gives the team its second extra-innings victory during the 2016 postseason – one more than they recorded during the entire regular season.
The Whitecaps hit the road to take on the winner of Saturday night’s game between the Bowling Green Hot Rods and Great Lakes Loons for the right to play in the Midwest League Championship. If the Whitecaps face the Hot Rods, broadcast coverage begins on the Whitecaps Baseball Network at 4:55p.m. If West Michigan plays the Loons, radio coverage begins at 6:55p.m. The Whitecaps return home for Game 2 of the Eastern Division Championship Monday night at 6:35p.m. Tickets can be reserved for Game 2 by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or by visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.