LANSING, MI - Down to their final strike at one point, the West Michigan Whitecaps overcame a two-run deficit in the ninth inning on Saturday night before eventually losing, 5-4, in walk-off fashion to the Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium.
West Michigan (35-32, 68-69) dropped their second straight game following a season-high seven-game winning streak, mounting a valiant rally before Lansing (28-40, 60-77) pulled out the late win.
The Whitecaps were trailing 4-2 in the ninth inning when Jake Stewart and Bennett Pickar hit consecutive one-out singles, prompting the Lugnuts to go to their ace closer, Arik Sikula. A passed ball and a wild pitch allowed Stewart to score while pinch-runner Harold Castro moved to third, representing the game-tying run.
Castro was still standing 90 feet away when David Gonzalez pulled a two-out, full-count pitch down the right field line for a triple, tying the score at 4-4 and keeping the game alive. It was just the fourth blown save of the season for Sikula, two of which have come courtesy of the Whitecaps.
Moments later, Lansing responded with the game-winning run.
West Michigan's Corey Knebel entered for the bottom of the ninth, but a four-pitch walk to Christian Lopes and a bouncing ball single by Dwight Smith, Jr. gave the Lugnuts runners at first and second with nobody out. Kevin Patterson followed with a hot smash that skipped past Jeff Holm at first base, scoring Lopes for the 5-4 win.
Sikula (6-1) earned the victory while Knebel (2-1) was dealt the loss.
The Whitecaps jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the fourth inning but were stifled by a pair of Lansing relievers. Lugnuts' starter Eric Brown was removed from the game after being hit by a line drive in the first inning, but relievers Tucker Donahue and Chad Girodo filled in admirably. The duo combined to throw 7.2 innings with just one run allowed before the 'Caps broke through in the ninth.
Jake Thompson struck out nine batters over five solid innings in his final start of the season, but gave up the lead when a two-run single by Lopes made it 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth.
Lansing took their first lead in the seventh when a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly gave them a 4-2 advantage.
Both runs were charged to Chad Smith, ending his scoreless innings streak at 20.1 consecutive frames, just two shy of the franchise record.
The Whitecaps continue their final series of the regular season with the middle game of a three-game set on Sunday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. against the Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium. RHP Calvin Drummond (2-2, 2.55) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan against RHP Kramer Champlin (6-3, 3.20) of Lansing. The Whitecaps will not have another home game until the 2014 season, which will include the 50th annual Midwest League All-Star Game on June 17 at Fifth Third Ballpark.
Click here to view the box score.