COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The West Michigan Whitecaps fell behind early and never recovered in a 7-4 loss to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Thursday night at Fox Cities Stadium.
Wisconsin (7-9) scored seven runs in the second inning to seize control early, putting a damper on the opener of a six-game road trip for West Michigan (8-10) and leaving manager Larry Parrish one win shy of his 700th career minor league victory.
The Whitecaps battled back, even managing to bring the potential game-tying run to the plate during a late rally. Zach Kirksey went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in his Whitecaps' debut as the visitors battled to overcome their early deficit.
His solo home run put the 'Caps on the board in the fifth inning, making it a 7-1 ballgame.
That margin lingered into the eighth inning until Jake Stewart singled with the bases loaded to cut the deficit to 7-2. Kirksey followed with a smash that knocked off the glove of a diving first baseman and rolled into foul territory, scoring Devon Travis easily from third. Lance Durham also raced home once the ball bounced away, but the throw from Adam Giacalone beat him to the plate. As catcher Clint Coulter tried to apply the tag, Durham slid into his glove and jarred the ball loose to score the run and make it a 7-4 ballgame.
With runners at second and third and the potential game-tying run at the plate, West Michigan was suddenly back in the ballgame. But Mario Martinez struck out, Bennett Pickar flew out to center, and the Whitecaps went down in order in the ninth inning as their comeback bid fell short.
Montreal Robertson (1-2) took the loss after his rough second inning.
The big rally began with a leadoff single by Victor Roache, who promptly scored on a two-run homer by Chris McFarland. Later in the frame the bases were loaded when a wild pitch allowed a third run to cross the plate, and Jose Sermo followed with a three-run homer to right-center that doubled the Timber Rattlers' lead. Later in the inning, a two-out error by shortstop David Gonzalez allowed another run to cross the plate as Wisconsin seized a commanding 7-0 lead.
Though Robertson did not allow a hit outside of the second inning, the Whitecaps could not recover. Robertson was charged with seven runs - six earned - on four hits and four walks over four innings.
Eric Semmelhack (1-0) earned the win for Wisconsin, allowing one run and scattering six hits over five innings.
The Whitecaps continue a six-game swing through Wisconsin with the middle game of a three-game series at 7:35 p.m. ET on Thursday night against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Fox Cities Stadium. RHP Hudson Randall (1-2, 0.64) is scheduled to take the hill for West Michigan against RHP Tyler Wagner (1-0, 4.09) of the Timber Rattlers. The next home game at Fifth Third Ballpark will be at 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, when fans are encouraged to wear orange for Dutch Day at the Ballpark. Group and individual tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
Click here to view the box score.