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Laster lifts 'Caps in Midwest Finals opener
09/11/2007 10:18 PM ET
Jeramy Laster's hot bat sent West Michigan to its fifth straight playoff win, a 4-3 triumph over visiting Beloit in Game 1 of the Midwest League Finals on Tuesday.

Laster, who came into the game hitting .389 with seven RBIs in four playoff games, drilled his third postseason homer, a two-run shot in the first inning.

"It was my first time seeing them. I was looking to get a fastball to put a good swing on and luckily, I got one," said Laster, who hit .195 (8-for-41) over his last 10 games of the regular season.

"It's just been a matter of bearing down and relaxing in the box. When you relax and stay calm, things slow down a little bit. We've all been having fun all season. This is a great group of guys. We all hang out together and have great team chemistry."

Only Laster and pitcher Phil Napolitan remain from last year's Midwest League championship team.

"Winning it again would be a great way to cap off a great season," Laster said. "We just want to play hard the rest of the way."

After Garrett Olson drew a bases-loaded walk and Chris Cates stroked an RBI single to tie the game in the second for the Snappers, Scott Sizemore put the Whitecaps back on top for good with a two-run blast, his second, in the fifth.

"He [starting pitcher Alex Burnett] threw two curves to start and I was behind 0-2. Then I fouled off another curve, but he made a mistake and hung another curveball that I got a hold of," Sizemore said.

The 22-year-old second baseman hit .393 in seven games against Beloit during the regular season, but is not ready to crown his team just yet.

"It's been an exciting run so far, but we haven't won anything yet. We still have two more to win."

James Skelton, hitting .350 in the playoffs, and Gorkys Hernandez each scored a run for West Michigan, which is trying to claim its second straight Midwest League Championship and fifth in the last 12 years.

Whitecaps starter Jonah Nickerson (1-0) pitched six innings in his playoff debut, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He was 11-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 25 regular-season starts. Luis Marte allowed a hit and a walk while fanning one in two scoreless frames and Brett Jensen struck out two in a perfect ninth for this third save.

Gregory Yersich went 2-for-4 and scored twice and Matthew Betsill had two hits and two walks for the Snappers, who lost for the first time in five playoff games. Starter Alex Burnett (1-1) yielded four runs -- three earned -- on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts in eight innings.

Game 2 is Wednesday in West Michigan.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.