West Mich MLN: Turner Draws, Feeney Delivers

There was a buzz in Comstock Park last Sunday. Sure, many were excited about the team's very recent success in the midst of a fairly mediocre season, but that's not why many of the fans were making the trip to the ballpark.

The hype was over RHP Jacob Turner (0-1, 3.68) who was finally scheduled to make his first home start of the season, after a short stint on the DL postponed his home debut.

While Turner suffered his first loss of the season at the hands of South Bend, he did have an impressive outing, throwing seven strikeouts against one walk in 5.1 innings of work.

After the game, Turner talked about his excitement to finally be able to stand on the mound in front of the hometown fans.

"I've looked forward to pitching in front of the home crowd for a while now, so it was good to be out there," Turner said. "Hopefully I can pitch a lot more games here."

While Turner hasn't exactly had the season that he was expected to so far this year, even he admitted this was probably his best start of the young season.

"I felt like today was probably the best I've thrown the ball consistently from inning to inning," Turner said. "I thought I threw a pretty good game."

Turner isn't the only one who seemed to feel this way. 'Caps manager Joe DePastino adamantly agreed.

"I thought he threw the ball great," DePastino said. "(Turner) commanded both sides of the plate, and threw hard with the two seamer."

DePastino seemed most impressed with Turner's ability to locate his pitches well, something that isn't necessarily common for a pitcher who is only 18 years of age.

"Location is very big, especially for an 18 year old," DePastino said. "He commanded all three pitches really well. It's rare to see a young kid who can command two pitches, let alone three. He's very smart at reading hitters: he's not just some kid who reaches back and tries to throw as hard as he can."

That being said, if you're looking for the best pitching performance in the past week for West Michigan, look no further than RHP Trevor Feeney (4-3, 3.38). Feeney, who was named the Midwest League's Pitcher of the Week for last week, pitched a complete game against South Bend on Saturday. He's currently tied for the team league in wins, and leads the 'Caps in innings pitched (56) and strikeouts (47). Feeney is also second in WHIP, not surprisingly, behind Turner.

Feeney's ability to go later into games is, according to DePastino, due to a few factors.

"He's a guy that has a higher pitch count than everyone else, so we're able to go deeper into games with him," DePastino said. "If he's going great, then he's going to stay in there late in the game."

Pitching isn't the only facet of Whitecaps baseball that is looking good, though. The team did not have a single error in taking three of four from South Bend, something that DePastino attributes to having the same pre-game routine on a daily basis, making the game come more naturally.

Hitting is also starting to improve for West Michigan. The Whitecaps are starting to move up the rankings in many of the batting categories in the Midwest League.

"It's just about being more consistent," DePastino said. "When you're more patient at the plate, you get better pitches to hit. When you get better pitches to hit, your average will go up."

Despite all the team's recent bright spots, the 'Caps still sit at 14-23 on the season, 12.5 games behind league-leading Lake County. But DePastino still has the team maintaining a positive attitude on the field, and in the clubhouse.

"I like it loose in here, I like it loose in the dugout, and loose in the game," DePastino said. "If you're tight in here, and tight in the dugout, you're going to be tight in the game."

The 'Caps are probably going to want to get extra loose for their next game, a Tuesday night showdown against a dominant Lake County team. The 'Caps will probably need to have the bats working, as well, as LHP Jade Todd (0-5, 5.45) will get the start.

Following a three game series against Lake County, the Whitecaps will go on the road to face the defending Midwest League champion Fort Wayne Tin Caps, before heading to Lansing to take on a reeling Lugnuts team that has won five in a row.

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