MIDLAND, Mich. - The Great Lakes Loons had all the pieces in place for a memorable home victory Tuesday - a potential ninth-inning rally, their bullpen in lockdown mode, and visiting West Michigan seemingly wasting one opportunity after another.
Instead, the pieces fell in place for the Whitecaps, who pushed across two runs in the 11th inning against Loons All-Star reliever Mark Pope and prevailed 3-1 before 2,001 fans at Dow Diamond.
The win was the seventh in a row for West Michigan (39-26) which moved another step closer to clinching a Midwest League Eastern Division first-half playoff spot. The Loons, who have been eliminated from first-half playoff consideration, fell to 30-35.
Moreover, Pope saw his team-record scoreless streak end at 22 1/3 innings when the Whitecaps scored two runs off of him in the top of the 11th. Pope retired West Michigan in order in the 10th, but gave up a leadoff triple to Austin Schotts in the 11th - on a ball that was originally ruled a home run then overturned - an RBI single to Javier Betancourt, and another run-scoring single by Dominic Ficociello.
The Loons got a leadoff double from Paul Hoenecke in the bottom of the 11th, but Whitecaps closer Zac Reininger retired the next three hitters to seal the win.
"I thought Pope was fine," said Loons manager Bill Haselman. "He was good in the 10th inning and then they got to him a little bit. But he's also pitched three out of the last four games. You're not always going to be as good as he's been."
Even with Tuesday's troubles, Pope's ERA is still only 0.69 on the season.
The Loons had an ideal opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth when they loaded the bases with one out against Reininger. But he struck out Webster Rivas and got Dillon Moyer to pop out to the catcher to end the threat.
Jesmuel Valentin finished with three of the Loons six hits and scored their only run when he doubled with one out in the eighth and scored on Jacob Scavuzzo's single.
West Michigan starter Chad Green pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven, before giving way to Felix. Loons starter Scott Barlow was similarly effective, as he allowed one run over five innings while striking out six.
Barlow pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth but gave up a run in the fifth on consecutive singles by Ficociello Jeff Holm and Wynton Bernard. Ficociello and Bernard each had three hits for the Whitecaps, who left 15 runners on base.
The three-game series between the two teams resumes Wednesday night when Loons right-hander Greg Harris (4-4, 6.07 ERA) will face the Whitecaps Jonathan Crawford, the Detroit Tigers first round draft pick in 2013. The evening will feature a special appearance by NASCAR driver Austin Dillon and his No. 3 race car, as well as Hump Day Happy Hour drink specials from gates open until one hour after the game starts.
The Great Lakes Loons are an eighth-year Single-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For tickets and information about the team, call 989-837-BALL, or visit loons.com.