Whitecaps roll over Great Lakes

Fifth -Third Ballpark-Compstock Park, MI: In another chapter in the in-state rivalry of the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Great Lakes Loons, the ‘Caps were able to stay hot and take the home series three games to four. Game one was showcased by West Michigan pitcher Jeff Ferrell, who stayed as hot as the August sun this month. He threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up only two hits and striking out four, and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Ferrell is 3-0 this month with a 0.74 ERA in his last four starts, as has already been named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for his efforts earlier this month.

“I’m just trying to keep the ball down and mix up my pitches the best I can.” Ferrell told the Grand Rapids Press. “All of my pitches have been working for me this month, and that has been a big part of my success right there.”

He got some run support early, on a solo home run by Lance Durham. Jeff McVaney would hit a three-run shot in the sixth innings, propelling the ‘Caps to a 4-1 win. Brandon Loy had two hits in the game for West Michigan also. Will Clinard preserved the win in relief, striking out two batters with the bases loaded to earn the save.

In game two of the series, the Whitecaps were down 5-0 early, but battled back to within one, 5-4, before the rain hit. The hour and a half rain delay seemed to wash away all of the ‘Caps momentum, and the over-worked bullpen got hit hard when play resumed. In the 13-4 loss, West Michigan gave up a season high runs, hits (19), and four relief pitchers combined to allow nine runs and 14 hits in six innings. Starter Wilsen Palacios took the mound for his first start in ten days, but couldn’t make it out of the third innings. The ‘Caps were only able to connect for six hits, with Jason Krizan going 2-3. Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run double in the fifth inning, and Jason King hit one over the wall in the fourth.

Game three of the series saw the Whitecaps only get five hits, but they made the most of them, scoring all of their runs with two outs in a 5-2 comeback win over the Loons.

“That was key,” ‘Caps manger Ernie Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “Any time you can score with two outs, it is going to benefit your ball club. I would like to get some one-out runs, but today was outstanding. Even though we got behind early, I thought we did a good job of making their pitcher throw some pitches that inning and we were able to capitalize. It is always good for your confidence when you can come back and win a ball game after losing the day before.”

Down 2-0, the ‘Caps started their comeback in the third inning on a single by Aaron Westlake, an RBI double by McVaney, and two-run single by King. In the fourth inning, Westlake struck again with a RBI single to make it 5-2. On the hill, starter Tommy Collier tossed three innings giving up the two runs. Relief pitchers Brennan Smith and Jade Todd kept Great Lakes off the scorecard the rest of the game.

The series finale was the most dramatic game of them all, believe it or not. The game went back-and-forth with neither team being able to pull away. Things looked good for the ‘Caps in the seventh inning, when Westlake tied the game on a deep home run. The Loons answered, though, when Tyler Ogle hit his first home run of the season to help his team re-take the lead. Westlake was 2 for 4 in the game with two RBI’s, but his ninth inning walk would prove crucial. Set the stage for Jeff McVaney, who’s two run blast sent the Whitecaps and their fans into a frenzy, giving them the 6-5 walk-off win.

“I don’t think there is a better way you can win a ball game than a walk-off home run,” McVaney told the Grand Rapids Press. “I knew the situation, and I knew we had to get that run in. I thought about driving the ball to center field, and I definitely had home run in the back of my mind. I was trying to swing extra hard. Both teams came up with clutch hits and clutch pitches. It was good for our team, especially when we are trying to win every game to get into the playoffs. It was definitely a good moral boost to have a win like that.”

McVaney ended the game going 3-5 with two singles and the homer. On the mound, starter Kyle Ryan had his best recent outing. He gave up only one run on three hits in his five innings pitched. Will Clinard would earn the win, despite giving up the go-ahead run in the ninth. The Whitecaps now lead the season series with the Loons 12 games to 7. This season’s end is rapidly approaching, and we’re hoping to make one more game before it ends!

Photos courtesy of Sally Finneran/Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com

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