West Mich MLN: Finish the First Half on Top

After another 4-3 week, the Whitecaps are still making a run for first, but seem to be running out of gas before the All-Star break.

June 11, the South Bend Silver Hawks edged out West Michigan 8-7, thus snapping the ‘Caps' eight game winning streak. From there, West Michigan seemed to be on a win one lose one basis the rest of the week.

June 12, right-hander Anthony Shawler came out of the woodwork and pitched six scoreless innings to lead the ‘Caps to the 3-1 win over the ‘Hawks. Shawler has been a meer shadow to the likes of Robles and Crosby, but in his last few starts the right-hander has proved he has full-time starter potential. Joe DePastino and pitching coach Mark Johnson will be looking at that over the break.

On June 13, outfielder Brent Wyatt was the only player to talk about Saturday night's game. His three-run blast in the eighth inning put West Michigan ahead 5-4, before adding a run to fly past the ‘Hawks 6-4 — taking the series three games to one. On a side note that night, Brandon Hamilton pitched four innings. It wasn't the greatest night for the power pitcher, who gave up the game's only four runs. The former first-rounder is still trying to find his stuff.

In a battle at Fifth Third ballpark June 14, pitcher Simon Castro and his first place Fort Wayne team streaked past West Michigan 9-5 in the first game of a crucial four-game series. Casey Crosby (4-2) was on the hill that Sunday and took the loss in his worst outing yet. The All-Star went three innings giving up four runs off five hits. DePastino went through four pitchers in Sunday's showdown, only to get rocked by Fort Wayne's relentless performance on both sides of the plate.

SIDE NOTE: A day after the embarrassing loss, the Tigers organization did some demoting June 15th. They demoted infielder Luis Palacios and catcher Keith Hernandez to Oneonta from West Michigan and demoted infielder Mike Gosse to West Michigan from High A Lakeland. Gosse was a 23rd round pick in the 2008 draft. He spent last season with Oneonto where he batted .277 with one home run and 35 RBI. Gosse will be a good addition to the Whitecaps who need depth in the field.

The next night, Luis Salas' two-run single provided West Michigan the lead and eventual win over the Tincaps 5-2. With that win, the ‘Caps pulled within a game of Fort Wayne for first place. The very next night (June 16) West Michigan took control of Fort Wayne early — thanks to the bullpen — in a 7-3 win over the Tincaps to even the standings for first. Starter Luke Putkonen threw five solid innings, while Shawler and Tyler Conn each came in and did the job they were sent to do. Their steady pitching maintained Fort Wayne the rest of the way for the win.

However, the next night wasn't as glamorous. Just as West Michigan jumped even with Fort Wayne, the Tincaps pulled the rug out from under them winning 12-2. Mauricio Robles (4-4) made his first start since returning from the disabled list and didn't do any justice for his Whitecap team. The southpaw lasted 3 1/3 innings, giving up six hits, six runs and four walks. The series ended in a 2-2 tie. The next time West Michigan plays Fort Wayne will be August 28.

It's safe to say Anthony Shawler is the hero of this week. For the Whitecaps this means they don't just have to rely on their All-Stars anymore. It's a team effort.

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