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Whitecaps open up Midwest League title defense with 3-2 walk-off victory in extras

The 2016 minor league regular season has come to a close and the those on the 40-man rosters for major league clubs are likely up in the show either helping their teams make a push for the postseason, or just getting a cup of coffee and enjoying the experience of a lifetime. For some teams however, like the Tigers’ Low Class-A affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League, they are beginning their run for a title down on the farm.

The Whitecaps and South Bend Cubs, their first-round opponent in the division quarterfinals, are one of eight teams competing in the playoffs and on Wednesday, the opened up a best-of-three series out in Grad Rapids.Through the rain and all, the ‘Caps were able to walk it off for a big Game 1 victory over the Cubs, 3-2 in 11 innings.

The game-winning base hit for ‘Caps third baseman Jose Zambrano (.277 BA in 66 games for WM) was his second knock of the game. He also scored on a run and walk in the game.

The story for Game 1 was missed opportunities for both teams. South Bend and West Michigan combined to go 3-for-25 with runners in scoring position and leave a total of 21 guys on base. Every starter in the lineup for West Michigan with the exception of Joey Havrilak (.267 in 23 games with WM) recorded at least one hit in the game on Wednesday. Whitecaps first baseman Will Maddox (.339 BA in 127 games for WM) came up just .009 points short of a league batting title but continued his hot-hitting into day one of the playoffs, going 3-for-5 with an RBI.

23-year-old Kyle Dowdy (2.84 ERA in 23 games, 16 starts) was tabbed as West Michigan’s Game 1 starter and performed well, going 5.1 innings and allowing just two ER on six hits, but did walk three batters. A four-man relief core pitched 5.2 innings out of the bullpen and allowed just two hits and a walk, striking out eight Cubs.

For the Whitecaps in particular, they are back in the ‘second season’ to defend their league championship they won a year ago. West Michigan finished the first half of the Midwest League regular season at 39-28, one game back of the division leader Cubs. But by finishing in the top two of the standings, they clinched a playoff berth and a first-round match-up with South Bend.

So the Whitecaps hold a 1-0 series lead over South Bend with a shot of advancing to the Division Championship round in Game 2. Here is the schedule for the remainder of the series:

  • Game 2 – West Michigan @ South Bend, 7:05 p.m. ET
  • Game 3 – West Michigan @ South Bend, 7:05 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Here are the other scores from Wednesday’s action:

  • Bowling Green Hot Rods (TB) at Great Lakes Loons (LAD), SUSP. thru 4th due to rain, GL leads 3-0
    • BG: Second-half East Division winner, GL: Second-half East Division Wild Card
  • Peoria Chiefs (STL) defeated Clinton LumberKings (SEA), 4-0, Peoria leads series 1-0
    • PEO: First-half West Division winner, CLI: First-half West Division Wild Card
  • Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) defeated Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL), 11-3, Cedar Rapids leads series 1-0
    • CRK: Second-half West Division winner, WIS: Second-half West Division Wild Card

A reminder that all games throughout the minor league playoffs can be viewed on MiLB.TV and also heard line on TuneIn Radio.

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