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West MI Whitecaps open season on the road

Apr 4th, 2014 - Sports News

(mlive)- The West Michigan Whitecaps kicked off the 2014 season with a bang on Thursday, rallying for three unanswered runs to overcome a late deficit in a thrilling 5-4 win over the Dayton Dragons in Dayton, Ohio.

West Michigan (1-0) got five shutout innings from their bullpen and benefitted from three Dayton (0-1) errors to battle back from a 4-2

The comeback started in the top of the seventh. With Austin Schotts at first base and Jose Zambrano at second, Javier Betancourt hit a bouncer to shortstop Carlton Daal. As Schotts blazed down the base line, Daal rushed his throw and sailed it into right field as Zambrano scored and Schotts ended up at third. Tyler Gibson followed with a run-scoring groundout that tied the game at 4-4.

The deadlock remained until Zambrano, batting ninth in the order, sparked another rally in the top of the ninth inning. He reached base on a one-out single, took second on an errant pickoff attempt and advanced to third on a single by Schotts. Moments later, Zambrano raced home on a wild pitch to provide the decisive 5-4 advantage.

But the Whitecaps were not out of the woods just yet.

Montreal Robertson came in for the bottom of the ninth and retired the first batter he faced before Beau Amaral reached on a bunt-single. Jeff Gelalich drilled a ball to deep left-center that chased Gibson and Schotts to the warning track. Gibson made a tremendous lunging catch and somehow managed to hang on to the ball as Schotts dove underneath him and the two got tangled up. Amaral, who was already at second base and poised to score, was forced to race back to first.

Two batters later, Robertson struck out Sean Buckley looking to preserve the victory.

Robertson’s first save since 2011 capped a stellar effort from the relief corps. Scott Sitz (1-0) earned the victory by retiring all six of the batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings. Joe Mantiply also came up big, tossing two scoreless frames and wiggling out of a crucial bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth that helped the ‘Caps stay in the game.

Evan Mitchell (0-1) suffered the loss for Dayton, allowing one unearned run in 1.2 innings of relief. The last three runs scored by West Michigan were all unearned.

The Whitecaps’ comeback effort came in spite of a pair of outfield injuries. Raph Rhymes was removed from the game in the sixth inning after coming up limping following a play at the plate. Schotts left the game after colliding with Gibson on his crucial ninth-inning catch, forcing manager Andrew Graham to bring his designated hitter, Wynton Bernard, into the game defensively.

The Whitecaps continue their season-opening series in Dayton with a 7:00 p.m. first pitch on Friday night. First-round pick RHP Jonathon Crawford is set to make his Midwest League debut against Dragons’ RHP Sal Romano. The highly-anticipated home-opener at Fifth Third Ballpark is scheduled for a 6:35 p.m. start on Tuesday against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers with a retrospective Fifth Third Ballpark lithograph giveaway presented by Fifth Third Bank for the first 1,000 fans, a spectacular post-game Family Fare fireworks show and a variety of jugglers, stilt walkers, face painters and more throughout the night. Season, group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps’ front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.

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