West Michigan (5-8) got some bad news early when scheduled starter Jacob Turner was a late scratch due to tightness in his right forearm, but the injury is not considered to be serious. Spot starter Victor Larez filled in admirably, but four Dayton (8-5) hurlers combined on a three-hit shutout led by starter Brian Pearl.
Pearl (1-0) tossed six scoreless frames in the win, allowing just two hits and preventing the Whitecaps from advancing any runners past first base. He struck out four and walked one, using just 67 pitches to navigate through his outing. Meanwhile, Larez (1-2) suffered the tough-luck loss after throwing 5.2 frames and giving up just one run on six hits and one walk.
Both starters cruised through the first few innings before the Dragons struck first in the bottom of the fourth. Kevyn Feiner led off with a single and stood at second base two outs later when Jordan Wideman took a 1-2 pitch and clubbed a run-scoring double to left-center. Mark Fleury followed with a single up the middle, but center fielder Michael Rockett came up throwing and gunned down Wideman at the plate with a one-hop strike to hold the deficit at 1-0.
Rockett came up big again in the very next inning. Frank Pfister doubled with one away for the Dragons and Alex Oliveros bounced a single through the middle of the infield. But Rockett charged hard and fired a laser to the plate that reached catcher Eric Roof on a line, gunning down a potential run for the second time in as many innings.
As the Whitecaps struggled to collect hits, the Dragons added some insurance in the seventh inning. Wideman got it started with a leadoff walk before a two-pitch sequence saw Dayton add two more runs. With one away, Efrain Contreras split the gap in right-center with a two-base hit. On the very next delivery, Pfister smacked a triple over the right fielder's head that pushed the lead to 3-0.
After Dragons relievers Chase Ware and Nick Christiani threw scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, closer Donnie Joseph finished things off in the ninth. The southpaw issued a leadoff walk but responded by striking out the next three batters he faced to notch his third save of the year.
The Whitecaps continue a three-game road series against the Dayton Dragons with Game Two at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21. LHP Giovanni Soto (1-0, 2.35) is slated to take the mound for West Michigan against RHP J.C. Sulbaran (1-0, 5.40) of the Dragons. The Whitecaps return to Fifth Third Ballpark on Friday, April 23, to face the South Bend Silver Hawks. Season, group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.