'Caps' Maybin comes through again

6-3 win over Cougars leaves West Michigan on brink of title

(Emily Smith/MLB.com)

By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com | September 14, 2006 5:58 PM ET

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. -- Teenagers playing their first full season of pro ball are supposed to hit a wall at the end, especially when they carry the expectations of a first-round draft pick on their shoulders.

Clearly, Cameron Maybin didn't get that memo.

A day after tripling in two runs to help West Michigan tie the Midwest League Championship Series with Kane County, the 19-year-old center fielder tripled again in Game 3 to spark a three-run third inning that led to a 6-3 Whitecaps' victory.

Maybin, Detroit's top pick in the 2005 draft (10th overall), has hit .333 in his first Minor League postseason.

"They say you get a second wind midseason, but I say you get a third wind in the postseason," said the Midwest League Prospect of the Year. "I feel good. Everybody seems to feel good. We definitely hit another notch.

"It's been a blast. Not too many guys in professional ball get a chance to play in the postseason. Being in the championship series is a blast."

It was a blast for Maybin's teammate Michael Hernandez, for sure. The 22-year-old designated hitter went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs for the Whitecaps, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Championship Series. West Michigan hosts Kane County in Game 4 here on Friday night.

The Whitecaps scored the first run of the game in the second without the benefit of a hit. In the third, Maybin stroked a one-out triple and Matt Joyce walked before Will Rhymes' single plated Maybin and moved Joyce to third. After Pedro Cotto walked, Hernandez smacked a two-run single that gave West Michigan a four-run cushion and knocked out Cougars starter Trey Shields.

"It was huge," Hernandez said of building the early lead. "This team grinds and they'll put up runs, too.

"I feel great. I had some RBI opportunities, got some good pitches to hit and hit them well."

Kane County battled back in the fourth against starter Sendy Vasquez. Frank Martinez led off with a double down the right-field line, moved to third on Midwest League MVP Jeff Baisley's flyout to right and scored on a wild pitch. Anthony Recker singled and moved to second when Raul Padron walked. After Jose Pineda's base hit loaded the bases, Vasquez walked Justin Sellers to force in the Cougars' second run.

Vasquez wasn't the only one who experienced control problems. West Michigan had runners on in each of the first six, thanks largely to the wildness of Shields and the Cougars' staff. He walked four and hit two batters in 2 1/3 innings. Joel Posey walked two more and Ronald Madej hit a pair of batters.

Recker led off the sixth with a home run off the video board in left field to cut the deficit to 4-3.

Vasquez managed to finish the sixth before handing off to Matthew Rusch. The reliever retired all nine batters he faced to notch the save.

"It's definitely important to come out like that and throw strikes and show the other team you've got command," Rusch said. "If you've got command, it puts them on their heels. We did a better job tonight of throwing strikes and staying composed, and it paid off in the end."

The Whitecaps got some breathing room in the eighth. After back-to-back doubles by Cotto and Hernandez made it 5-3, Mark Haske singled in Hernandez to cap the scoring.

"The cushion the guys gave me, that was huge," Rusch said. "I was able to sit back and relax. It felt good to get back out there. I'm happy with the way the game turned out there."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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