COMSTOCK PARK, MI – An outstanding performance by pitcher Sandy Baez helped the West Michigan Whitecaps force a decisive Game 3 as they beat the Great Lakes Loons by a score of 5-3 in Game 2 of the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship Series Monday night at Fifth Third Ballpark.
With Great Lakes needing only one more victory to secure their first trip to the Midwest League Championship series, the Loons struck early with a first inning RBI single off Caps starter Sandy Baez. The Whitecaps answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning off Loons starter Victor Gonzalez. Singles by Brett Pirtle and Will Maddox set the table for 'Caps RBI leader Will Allen. Allen responded by driving home both with a single and giving the Whitecaps an early lead. The second inning provided three more runs for the 'Caps, and an early exit for Gonzalez. Cam Gibson singled and scored after an RBI double by a Joey Havrilak double-his third in three games. After a Pirtle seeing-eye single put two runners on, Will Maddox placed a sacrifice bunt down the first base line scoring Havrilak. Will Allen drove in his third RBI of the game with a double into right center field to cap the inning with a 5-1 Whitecaps lead.
Baez relinquished four Loons hits in his third inning of work to close the 'Caps lead at 5-3, but his remaining innings proved masterful. Baez allowed three walks and only one hit-a single, over his remaining 4.2 innings of work, and easily gave his best performance of the season. The Great Lakes bullpen rallied and held West Michigan to only four hits over the last five innings. Whitecaps lefty Trent Szkutnik took the mound and finished the eighth inning, giving up a single in his lone inning of work. Whitecaps closer Mark Ecker shut down the Loons in order to seal the win for Baez (1-0), earn his second save of the playoffs and push the East Division Championship Series to a series finale on Tuesday night. The Whitecaps seek to advance to the Midwest League Championship series for the seventh time in their history.
Seven Whitecaps players combined for thirteen base hits in the win. Allen recorded three hits to pace the offensive attack. Josh Lester enjoyed his best playoff game offensively for West Michigan with two singles. Pirtle and Arvicent Perez also chipped in with two each for the 'Caps. Victor Gonzalez suffered the loss after being chased out of the game after only 1.1 innings. Baez (1-0) held Great Lakes to seven hits, and struck out eight in 7.2 impressive innings.
The Whitecaps are one win away from their seventh trip to the Midwest League Championship in team history, and can advance to the Title Round with a victory in Game 3 of the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship Series against the Great Lakes Loons from Fifth Third Ballpark Tuesday at 6:35pm. Kyle Dowdy gets the start for West Michigan, while right-hander Yadier Alvarez takes the mound for the Loons.