West Mich MLN: Surge Comes Up Short

Despite a sweltering stretch over the past couple weeks where the Whitecaps won 15 of their last 20 games and six straight series', in the end it wasn't quite good enough to snag a first half playoff spot. Finishing just two behind Bowling Green, West Michigan ended the first half of the year at a season best two games above .500 at 36-34.

Outfielder Steven Moya was in part to thank for the recent surge in the ‘Caps' offense. Over his last ten games, Moya has smacked four home runs including a grand slam to give him 12 RBI during that stretch. Moya's four home runs are part of the 49 long balls that the ‘Caps have hit so far this season, on pace to break the current franchise record of 94 set back in 2004.

Having spent time on the disabled list earlier in the season, Moya had a tough time initially getting back in the groove. "It was a little hard [following the injury] because I was completely lost at home plate with the strike zone that I had been working on before I got injured," said Moya. "But now I'm trying to recognize my strike zone again and see the different pitches."

Moya and his offense wasn't the only thing keeping the Whitecaps in games and helping them win 15 of 20. It was the team's pitching that got on a roll as well.

Excluding a game last week where the ‘Caps lost 8-4 to South Bend, West Michigan surrendered no more than three runs over this past week of games while delivering a dominating 6-0 shutout against the Silver Hawks. Starter Kyle Ryan lasted eight innings that night allowing only a pair of hits with five strikeouts.

But it might have been the series finale against South Bend and the last game of the first half of the year that may have been the ‘Caps' most impressive pitching performance. Jeff Ferrell made the spot start going four innings and was then was helped out by six more relievers to round out the 14 extra-inning game.

All in all, 14 innings were thrown by the bullpen without allowing an earned run while tallying 19 strikeouts and giving up only three walks. The Whitecaps would go on to win the contest 4-3 when, after recently called up Lance Durham, son of current Toledo hitting coach Leon "Bull" Durham, scored the go-ahead run off a Silver Hawks error in the top of the 14th.

It may have been a little bit more of a shaky game defensively for the Whitecaps – one in which the team committed five errors – but the bottom line was a W, the only thing that matters in the eyes of the manager.

"We may have had some ugly games lately but we've been able to get the job done," said Ernie Young. "It might take a lot more pieces to fit the puzzle in certain games but the bottom line is being able to hold off the other team's rally and win the game."

The Whitecaps come up for air this week with a few days off thanks to the Midwest League All-Star break and will commence the second half of the season at home for a weekend series against South Bend, part of a six game eventual homestand.

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