Whitecaps win season opener in walkoff fashion

West Michigan Whitecaps season opener: 2011

COMSTOCK PARK — The beginning of the West Michigan Whitecaps’ season was delayed by three days.

It turned out to be worth the wait.

The season opener for the Whitecaps and Lansing Lugnuts finally took place Sunday afternoon, and a slugfest ensued with West Michigan rallying for a dramatic victory.

Catcher Rob Brantly supplied a clutch, two-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Whitecaps a wild 13-12 win in front of 7,728 fans at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The previous three games never took place because of poor field conditions at Lansing’s Cooley Law School Stadium.

“Opening day was meant to be at home,” Brantly said. “The baseball gods wanted us to play this first one at home, and I’m glad we could deliver and get a win right out of the gate.”

Brantly’s walkoff hit scored Dixon Machado from second base and capped an inspired comeback by the home team.


Next game: West Michigan (Kevin Eichhorn 0-0, 0.00) vs. Great Lakes (Garrett Gould 0-0, 0.00), 6:35 p.m. Monday at Fifth Third Ballpark

Radio: WBBL-FM (107.3), WHTC-AM (1450), WDEE-FM (97

By the numbers

6: Fans seen wearing winter knit caps that were given out to the first 1,000 fans

79: Temperature at game time when the first pitch was thrown at 1:13 p.m by Whitecaps starter Kyle Ryan

28: Number of Chicks with Sticks, a healthy option consisting of sliced vegetables and hummus, sold on opening day. It was one of several new items featured on the menu at Fifth Third Ballpark.

44: Fifth Third Burgers purchased

26: Hit total for both teams. West Michigan and Lansing each had 13.

The Whitecaps trailed 12-7 after six innings, but scored six unanswered runs on the strength of two home runs.

Luis Castillo hit a two-run home run in the seventh to close the gap, and James Robbins hammered a three-run blast to right-center in the eighth inning to tie it.

“It was fun to watch, and they went out there and battled and battled the whole game,” said Ernie Young, who won his managerial debut with the Whitecaps. “They didn’t give in, and they scratched and clawed their way back into the ball game so we had an opportunity to win the game in the ninth inning.”

Castillo walked to lead off the ninth inning, but was thrown out at second after a poor sacrifice bunt attempt by Machado.

Machado reached second base on a failed pickoff from Lansing pitcher Dayton Marze, and after Hernan Perez struck out, Brantly laced a shot to center field that a diving Jake Marsinek couldn’t catch.

“I was excited to get the opportunity when the situation came up,” said Brantly, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

“I saw it developing and I knew I was going to get the opportunity to do something. And Machado getting himself into scoring position set it up perfectly. I drove the ball, and it was one of those things where it was the right time, the right place.”

Machado reached base in all five at-bats. He had four singles and scored three runs. Robbins went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, and P.J. Polk and Edwin Gomez also had a pair of hits.

“To win it in walkoff fashion on opening day is awesome,” Robbins said. “It was exciting for everyone, and to hit the home run, I don’t know what to say. I got down in the count and I was hoping to get one of my pitches. He threw it in there, and I was lucky to get all of it.”

The combined 25 runs were the most for a season opener in franchise history. West Michigan defeated Lansing 15-4 in 2001.

“Both teams came out swinging the bat, which was surprising, especially after the layoff,” Young said. “You figure that pitching might dominate the game today a little bit, but the guys were ready at the plate to hit.”

Bruce Rondon picked up the win for West Michigan after pitching a scoreless ninth inning. Four Whitecaps pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts.

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Apr 10th, 2011 | Posted in Fashion
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