LANSING, MI - The West Michigan Whitecaps' bullpen weathered a series of late storms and Domingo Leyba capped a 3-for-5 day with the go-ahead hit in the top of the 11th inning, highlighting a 3-2 win over the Lansing Lugnuts on Sunday afternoon at Cooley Law School Stadium.
By winning three out of four games in Lansing (21-28, 53-65), West Michigan (31-18, 72-47) finished their road trip with a 4-3 record and elevated their overall record back to 25 games above .500.
Sunday's showdown was tied at 2-2 when the Whitecaps mounted the game-winning rally in the top of the 11th inning against the Lugnuts' Phil Kish (5-5. Following one-out walks to Raph Rhymes and Jeff Holm, the 18-year-old Leyba stepped up and drilled a groundball single through the middle to plate Rhymes for the 3-2 lead.
The late rally was made possible by a tremendous pitching performance in which five West Michigan hurlers combined for 12 strikeouts without allowing an earned run. As part of the effort, four relievers were used in situational pitching changes that may foreshadow the looming playoff run - and they stranded Lansing baserunners in scoring position in four straight innings from the seventh through the 10th.
Starter Chad Green got it started with 6.1 innings of great baseball, retiring 11 consecutive batters at one point and throwing into the fifth inning before allowing a hit. Green struck out six and allowed just three hits, but a pair of errors led to single unearned runs in the sixth and seventh as the Lugnuts rallied to tie the score at 2-2.
That is when the bullpen took over.
With men at first and second in the seventh inning, Ryan Longstreth induced an inning-ending double play to maintain the tie. Nate Fury took over in the eighth and induced a fly-out to strand a runner at second base, part of a 1.1-inning stint that ended with a punch-out to leave a pair of runners aboard in the ninth.
Perhaps the biggest jam came in the 10th, when Lansing's Mike Reeves led off with a double and was bunted to third. But Trent Szkutnik battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out Derrick Loveless and Zac Reininger got a groundout from Mitch Nay to push the game into the 11th inning.
After Leyba's go-ahead hit in the top of the 11th, Reininger (3-2) struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to clinch the win.
Wynton Bernard and Jose Zambrano each had two-hit games for West Michigan. With two on and two out in the top of the fifth, Bernard plated Zambrano on a groundball single through the right side. The throw home from Loveless in right field got away, allowing Austin Schotts to score as well as the Whitecaps took a 2-0 lead.
The Whitecaps have Monday off before returning to Fifth Third Ballpark for a brief three-game homestand that starts at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night against the South Bend Silver Hawks. RHP Jonathon Crawford (6-3, 3.18) is scheduled to pitch for West Michigan against RHP Sean Furney (7-6, 4.09) of South Bend on a Dime Dog Night. 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.