It all seemed to be clicking...
The Whitecaps finished out Wednesday with a shutout loss to Cedar Rapids 3-0 for their second straight loss. However, DePastino and boys took five straight prior to the recent losing streak. With strong pitching and the big bats coming through, West Michigan seems to be carrying a momentum that might be hard to stop.
The most impressive note at this time of the year is the ‘Caps' 6-1 home record. Fifth Third ballpark seems to be their Fortress of Solitude. But their fight to the top will be anything but easy.. Fort Wayne holds the top spot with a 15-4 record. They're 10-1 at home and are currently on a three-game tear. There is good news, though. Fort Wayne knows they have a worthy opponent. The ‘Caps took three of a four game series against the Wizards, starting on April 21. Strong pitching performances by the team's top pitchers: Matt Hoffman, Mauricio Robles and Brandon Hamilton, proved to be Fort Wayne's kryptonite.
At the plate, Brandon Douglas, Bryan Pounds and Billy Nowlin lit up all pitchers. Douglas is hitting .379 on the year with a team leading 22 hits. Pounds leads the team in doubles and is tied in RBIs with 15. The big hitter is proving to be a very solid infielder for the ‘Caps too.. The California native, Billy Nowlin is another ‘Cap that seems to be annihilating pitchers. He's hitting .400 with runners in scoring position, and has proven to be a great clutch hitter, batting in the four-spot.
After West Michigan's third straight win against the Lansing Lugnuts on April 27th, the Detroit Tigers announced that catcher Jordan Newton was to be promoted to High-A Lakeland. The former sixth round pick will leave a rather large hole behind the plate. Newton is a big-hitting catcher that has the ability to rally his teammates with his trips to the plate. On the same day, left-handed pitcher Jade Todd was placed on the DL, retroactive to April 23. For Newton's replacement, Angel Flores was reassigned to West Michigan following his one game appearance with Toledo. Flores played 26 games for the ‘Caps last season. Called up in Todd's replacement was Tyler Conn, who was promoted from extended spring training. Conn was a 14th round selection for the Tigers in 2008. For Oneonta last season, he finished with a 3.27 ERA and had 18 strikeouts.
The Whitecaps currently sit second in Midwest League pitching, but are tops in at the plate. Their .283 overall average and 175 hits lead all Midwest League teams. They will continue their best franchise start in team history with one more game at Cedar Rapids before heading to Burlington to take on the Midwest's worst team. The Bees currently sit in the cellar at 5-13.
It's hard to say whether this momentum will last or not, but West Michigan seems to be dominant on both sides of the field. On the bench, they're strong with platooning factors: Ron Bourquin, Luis Salas and Luis Palacios. In the pen, Jared Gayhart, Anthony Shawler, Tyler Stohr and Brayan Villarreal compliment the rotation starters, giving DePastino plenty of options to work with when looking for relief. It might be too early to say now, but this year's pitching staff might be stronger than last year's. In 2008, overall team pitching seemed to be a weak point for West Michigan. This year, with a mix of brute power and speed on the mound, the ‘Caps are super competitors of the Midwest.
West Michigan is sitting pretty for now and seems to be making strides for the top team. With having a good month of May, the ‘Caps might embark on quite the summer.