COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The West Michigan Whitecaps were just one out away from making another piece of history on Saturday afternoon.
Instead, on a slip in the outfield, the Whitecaps lost their first home game in exactly one month with a stunning 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Fort Wayne TinCaps in Game 1 of a split doubleheader at Fifth Third Ballpark.
With their first home loss since May 21, West Michigan (1-1, 42-30) had their lengthy Fifth Third Ballpark winning streak snapped at a record-tying 10 games, equaling a streak first achieved during the 2000 season. Fort Wayne (1-1, 31-40) seemed to have fate on their side on Saturday, scoring all five of their runs in rallies that started with two outs and the bases empty.
The Whitecaps were on the verge of victory with two outs in the seventh - the final scheduled inning - when a bunt-single by Ronnie Richardson and a bloop-hit by Dustin Peterson put runners at the corners.
Fernando Perez then sent a liner to left that looked like it would end the game, but outfielder Raph Rhymes lost his footing and fell to the ground as the ball sailed over his head and both runs scored.
Suddenly behind 5-4, the Whitecaps got a leadoff single from Francisco Contreras in the bottom of the seventh but were unable to score.
Joe Mantiply (5-2) suffered both a loss and a blown save due to the late gaffe. He was charged with two runs on three hits in two innings.
Fort Wayne relievers Eric Yardley (1-1) and Nick Mutz (7) benefitted from the unexpected turn of events to earn the win and the save, respectively.
The late turnaround overshadowed what was on track to be a comeback win for West Michigan.
Third-round draft pick Grayson Greiner was 2-for-3 with an RBI, picking up his first professional hit and RBI while helping the Whitecaps to a 2-0 lead. Fort Wayne answered with a three-run rally in the top of the fifth, stringing together four consecutive two-out hits against Jonathon Crawford to go ahead, 3-2.
But the Whitecaps answered quickly. Dominic Ficociello launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to put the home team back in front, providing a 4-3 margin that lasted until the ill-fated stumble with two outs in the seventh inning.
Ficociello, who reached base in all three of his plate appearances, extended his hitting streak to 15 games - the longest active streak in the Midwest League. During the streak, the switch-hitting first baseman is batting .393 with two home runs and 10 RBI.
The Whitecaps continue Saturday's split doubleheader in a matter of hours as the nightcap gets underway at 7:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Ballpark. RHP Buck Farmer (6-5, 3.00) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan against RHP Kyle Lloyd (2-1, 3.56) for Fort Wayne in game that will be followed by an appearance from Team Ghostriders and Family Fare fireworks. Season, 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.