TigsTown.com - Wendy Smith

The West Michigan Whitecaps are competing in the Midwest League playoffs for the Detroit Tigers, led by Ross Kivett.

Last week we said goodbye to all but one of the Tigers minor league affiliates. The Mud Hens sent their manager off to retirement with an epic extra-inning affair, and the SeaWolves capped their strong final month with another win. The Connecticut Tigers couldn’t end their season with a win, but in West Michigan the Whitecaps ended the regular season in the win column, and kept right on cruising into the playoffs.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 9/07 - 9/13

AAA Toledo Mud Hens

61-83, 4th in West Division

The MudHens simply refused to let manager Larry Parrish retire with a loss in his final game last Monday, continually fighting back against Columbus until the first-place Clippers fell in 15 innings. Toledo strung together two singles and an error to tie the game at one in the top of the 8th, only to see the Clippers take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning. The Mud Hens once again fought back, though, getting a game-tying HR from Jefry Marte with two outs in the 9th. The teams remained scoreless until the top of the 15th when Trayvon Robinson hit a 2-run homer to take a 4-2 lead, and Joe Mantiply worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to send Parrish out a winner.


  • The veteran Robinson joined Toledo in early July, and he didn’t put up great numbers, hitting just .211/.322/.263, but he certainly picked an opportune time to hit his first home run as a Mud Hen.


  • Mud Hens pitchers racked up 17 strikeouts in their final game, with starter Warwick Saupold punching out 7, Ian Krol adding 1, Rafael Dolis 2, Guido Knudson 4, and Alberto Cabrera 3.


  • Parrish played in the majors for 15 seasons, making two all-star teams and posting a .263 career average with 256 home runs. He finished his minor-league managerial career as Toledo’s winningest manager, compiling a 699-708 record and winning two league titles.

AA Erie SeaWolves

64-78, 6th in Western Division

The SeaWolves didn’t have the compelling storyline of a retiring manager, but they did have a hitter going for the record books. Wynton Bernard came into the final game of the season needing four hits to tie Omar Infante’s franchise record of 163 hits in a season. Bernard did help his team pull off the win, but he could only manage two hits in five plate appearances, and has to settle for second place. Erie jumped out to a 7-0 lead after four innings, taking advantage of some sloppy defense from the Bowie Baysox and big hits from James Robbins, Dominic Ficociello, Austin Green, and Jason Krizan. Starter Austin Kubitza did the rest, giving up just one run on eight hits over six innings to earn the win.


  • All nine of Erie’s starters recorded at least one hit in the game, with Bernard, Green, and second baseman Harold Castro each getting a pair of knocks.


  • Kubitza had a very rough year, finishing with the worst ERA (5.79) and WHIP (1.79), and the second most hits allowed (191) in the Eastern League, but he did make 14 starts in which he allowed two runs or fewer, and he won nine games.


  • The SeaWolves had 13 different pitchers record a save this year, including Jeff Ferrell, Drew VerHagen, Edgar De La Rosa, Paul Voelker, Gabe Hemmer, and Ryan Perry.


  • A West Michigan Whitecaps

    42-28, 2nd in the 2nd half, 75-64, 2rd overall in Eastern Division

    The Whitecaps went 4-1 last week, winning their final regular season game in 10 innings, and then taking three of four playoff games. The regular season ended in dramatic fashion, with Christin Stewart tying the game at one with a solo homer in the top of the 9th, and then West Michigan scoring two in the 10th thanks to an error, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly. The squad continued their winning ways in the first game of their playoff series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps, scoring five times in the first four innings. Spencer Turnbull, coming off his best start of the season, gave up just two runs over six innings, and Trey Teakell and Joe Jimenez finished the game with three innings of hitless relief. The teams traveled to Fort Wayne for game two, where West Michigan’s starter A.J. Ladwig gave up run in the first inning, but then absolutely stifled the TinCaps through the seventh. Ross Kivett scored twice for the Whitecaps, coming in on a wild pitch in the 3rd, and scoring on a Kade Scivicque double in the 5th, and fireballing reliever Gerson Moreno, on his 20th birthday, struck out three over two scoreless innings to preserve the game and give West Michigan a playoff series win.

    The Whitecaps returned home to continue their playoff push in a three-game series against their long-time in-state rival the Lansing Lugnuts. West Michigan’s starter Jeff Thompson gave up two runs in the first inning, but outfielder Mike Gerber was able to halve the lead with a solo shot in the bottom of the frame. Both starters settled down until Lansing was able to plate one off Thompson in the fifth inning. He was able to get one out in the sixth before putting two men on, but Adam Ravenelle gave up a single and third baseman Francisco Contreras made a throwing error, and the Whitecaps found themselves down 5-1. The club scored twice in the seventh, and Contreras tried to atone for his mistake with a solo homer in the ninth, but the Lugnuts pulled out the 5-4 victory. Facing elimination on Sunday, West Michigan went to starter Artie Lewicki, who pitched six innings and gave up just a single unearned run. The offense got things going in the first, when Gerber tripled and Scivicque singled him home, and the bats kept working, scoring again in the third, and then plating a pair of runs in the fourth, seventh, and eighth innings. Lansing added two runs in the bottom of the 9th, but it was too little, too late, and West Michigan evened the series with an 8-3 win. The teams play on Monday to determine who will head to the Midwest League championship to take on the Cedar Rapids Kernels.


    • Turnbull went the entire regular season, a total of 116 2/3 innings, without surrendering a home run. But sure enough, in his first playoff start, he gave up a round-tripper to Fort Wayne’s Trae Santos, who is seeking to become just the second player from Guam to ever make the majors.


    • No one has been hotter in the playoffs than Whitecaps outfield Ross Kivett. In four games, he is 8-for-16 with two doubles, five runs scored, three RBIs, two walks, and a stolen base.


    • Second baseman Joey Pankake had one of his best games ever in Sunday’s crucial win, going 4-for-5 with a double and a home run. His eight total bases was a season high for any Whitecaps hitter.


    Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers

    35-38, 3rd in Stedler Division

    Connecticut limped to the offseason with a 6-1 loss to the Tri-City ValleyCats that saw the Tigers leave 11 runners on base and go just 1-for-8 with men in scoring position. Michael Vinson took the loss in his first start of the season, though this year’s 24th-round pick didn’t pitch badly, surrendering just one run in two innings of work. Matt Davenport gave up four runs in three innings, and Jack Fischer finished the game with three innings of one-run ball. Connecticut’s lone run came when center fielder Joey Havrilak scored from second on an RBI single from right fielder Tanner Donnels.


    • Vinson carries a bit more promise than most players picked in the 24th round. The right hander threw fewer than 30 innings in his college career, spending his freshman year as a reliever, and then missing all of his sophomore year and most of his junior season due to an elbow injury. The Tigers were careful with him in pro ball, never allowing him to throw more than three innings in any one outing, and he finished the year with a 1.93 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 32 innings.


    • Outfielder Cam Gibson hit just seven home runs in his three-year career at Michigan state, but in 33 games for Connecticut he went deep six times. He posted a .252/.303/.458 line, and stole four bases in eight chances.


    • The Tigers signed right-handed pitcher Jordan Smith as an undrafted free agent in 2014, but he only saw 8 1/3 innings of action last year. In 2015 the 23-year-old he served as one of Connecticut’s closers, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.91 ERA and three saves in four chances.



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