West Michigan MLN: Can they stay on top?

The Whitecaps have received outstanding pitching and plenty of offense to start the year, and that has them in first place as we approach mid-May. With Jeremy Bonderman coming to town on a rehab assignment, can their reign atop the standings continue?

It's been quite the climb for the Whitecaps, but they have finally reached the top of the Mid Eastern Division.

At 21-10, the ‘Caps sit a half game above Fort Wayne. They went 4-3 on the week, but hope to improve in the week ahead as they will face Dayton, Great Lakes and Peoria.

The ‘Caps started their week with two back-to-back shutouts . May 6, Matthew Hoffman stepped on the hill and pitched seven innings of sheer dominance against the Beloit Snappers. Before being replaced by Joe Testa, Hoffman struck out Beloit's Drew Thompson and Allan de San Miguel—a perfect end to a great pitching performance. Hoffman finished the game giving up only four hits and two walks, but struck out six in the 3-0 win.

The second shutout win was more of a team effort by the pitching staff. Casey Crosby pitched five innings where he gave up only a single hit (a single by Beloit's Alexander Soto) and struck out seven. Tyler Conn came in and would eventually pick up the win 2-0, with Tyler Stohr nabbing his fifth save of the season.

The next couple days, West Michigan played their first series against Clinton, and found out that the Lumberkings are no pushovers. Clinton took two games out of the three game series in lopsided wins. At 18-13, Clinton sits in second place in their division. Feeling the hurt from back-to-back losses to Clinton, the ‘Caps were looking for a little sunshine. On May 10, they found their sunshine. In the first inning, all seemed lost. The Lumberkings scored first. By the second inning, they added five more runs to increase their lead to 6-0. To add more pain, Clinton knocked two more runs in, on a triple and sacrifice fly, to take an 8-0 jump on West Michigan. DePastino would look to relievers Anthony Shawler, Jared Gayhart and Tyler Stohr to keep the Lumberkings at bay. As the sun started to dip and the bottom half of the fourth inning approached, the ‘Caps had enough. Brent Wyatt doubled and scored on an error. Later, Brandon Douglas scored on an RBI single by Bryan Pounds to put them on the board, 8-2. What came next is truly historic… Stay tuned…

It was announced yesterday by Detroit, that pitcher Jeremy Bonderman is scheduled to make a start for the Whitecaps in a rehab assignment. He will pitch this Saturday, May 16 against Great Lakes. Bonderman started the year on the disabled list and begin rehab after undergoing outlet compression syndrome surgery. Bonderman has played six seasons for the Tigers, and in those six years he has totaled a 59-66 record and a 4.74 ERA. Bonderman will be the first Detroit pitcher to have played in West Michigan since Kenny Rogers in 2007.

Ok, you all have been waiting patiently for the outcome of May 10. So trailing 8-2, the Whitecaps didn't give up. Instead, they kept the momentum going. In the fifth inning, West Michigan added two more runs when Brent Wyatt knocked a two-run double to bring in catcher Angel Flores and Ben Guez. At this point, Clinton began to feel the heat coming. In the sixth, Ronnie Bourquin brought in Bryan pounds to cut Clinton's lead 8-5. Jumping to the bottom of the ninth—what better way to add to the drama, right?... In the ninth with one out, Guez started the rally by slamming a dramatic homerun—his first of the year—to bring in Jordan Lennerton and Gustavo Nunez. Guez's three-run slam tied the game, 8-8.

Entering extra innings, everything was calm until Flores stepped up to the plate. He singled to right field. Shortly after, DePastino made an offensive substitution by bringing in pinch runner Luis Palacios to replace Flores. Nunez sacrificed bunted Palacios to second. After, Guez reached based on a fielder's choice that advanced Palacios to third. Wyatt would walk, loading the bases for Brandon Douglas. Douglas, made a smart move, and hit a fly ball to right center to bring home Palacios for the 9-8 come-from-behind victory.

After the nail-bitter from the night before, Hoffman stepped on the mound again and tossed his way to a 9-4 win against Dayton, improving his record to 5-0 on the season. With a 1.12 ERA, and his record, it's safe to say he's in the top three pitchers in the Midwest League. On a side not, Brandon Douglas' .356 average sits him second among all Midwest batters.

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