West Mich MLN: 'Caps on a Roll

In baseball, when a team is sitting dead last in the division with a month to go, said team usually can start embracing the fact that it probably isn't there year to make a run at the postseason.

So, when the Whitecaps were looking up at the entire division a few weeks ago, most people had written them off as being dead in the water, no pun intended. Three weeks and a franchise record-tying twelve wins in a row later, however, the 'Caps find themselves in sole possession of the final wild card spot with twenty games left in the regular season.

After their third consecutive series sweep on Monday against South Bend, West Michigan finds itself at 26-24 in the second half, five games behind Ft. Wayne, while sitting just one game ahead of a Lansing Lugnuts team that, to its credit, hasn't been playing too bad of baseball, either.

If the team can manage to hold on to the last playoff spot for the rest of the season, they would find themselves in a first round matchup against the Lake County Captains, a team that the 'Caps have been very successful against, especially recently.

The field isn't the only place where the game has changed for West Michigan, though.

What was once a mellow, relatively subdued clubhouse back in April has seemingly turned into an upbeat, high-morale clubhouse that shows a sense of camaraderie that it was lacking earlier on.

According to second baseman Corey Jones, winning ball games has made the team more confident, leading to a relaxed club.

"The first few games when I got here, there was a different atmosphere," Jones said. "We'd go down a few runs and that initial feeling would be 'here we go again.'"

"I think once we started winning a few games and got a little momentum, that feeling sort of went away," he continued. "It's a loose atmosphere and everybody's having fun and gelling really well."

Jones, who, along with third baseman Wade Gaynor, has been one of the more consistent hitters on the team this season, said that if the team can continue to stick to what they are doing now, their play will give them a great chance to make a postseason run.

"We just have to keep doing what we're doing right now," he said. "We have a good thing going, so we shouldn't change it. To be honest with you, if you asked everyone a month ago, we shouldn't be where we are right now."

That may be an understatement.

A month ago, the team was in the middle of a four game losing streak, and was settled in to the bottom of the division, sitting over ten games out of a wild card spot.

Now, they look as though they may be poised to make a deep playoff push, something that Jones thinks his Whitecaps are prepared for.

"We all think we can do it. Especially now that we have a little momentum," Jones said. "Anything can happen. Really all the playoffs are about is who's hot at the right time, and it's definitely something we talk about everyday. We all want to win."

One more win on Wednesday against Fort Wayne and they will have earned themselves the franchise record for most wins in a row at thirteen, and possibly a little wiggle room over Lansing.

That being said, the road will not be an easy one for the 'Caps.

The team sees Fort Wayne and Lansing six more times each, as well as league-leading Great Lakes eight more times before the end of the season.

But, with the way things have been falling for the Whitecaps, whether it be a huge performance by RHP Jared Wesson (6-1, 2.17) who struck out eleven batters on Monday, or first baseman Tony Plagman, who came off the bench to pinch hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth last night during a game in which the 'Caps were trailing 2-1, and ended up tying the game on an RBI triple and winning it on a wild pitch, it seems as though there's a good chance that September 6 will not be the teams last day of baseball this season.


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