If there is a target on West Michigan's back, the Whitecaps don't seem to mind.
The two-time defending Midwest League champions scored 10 runs in the first inning of their season opener on Thursday en route to a 15-2 trouncing of the South Bend Silver Hawks at Coveleski Stadium.
"Everything seemed to go our way in that inning," said right-fielder Casper Wells, who homered to cap the rally. "You really don't expect to score a whole bunch when it's cold and rainy like it was. But we kept putting together good at-bats and didn't let up."
Kyle Peter and Justin Henry opened the game with walks and advanced on Wells' groundout to first base. Christopher Carlson and Ron Bourquin followed with RBI singles and a pair of walks to Joseph Bowen and Audy Ciriaco forced home another run.
"At that point you could just see one hitter feeding off of the next," Wells said. "It was a string of good, quality at-bats. We weren't swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. We were very patient and focused, and we took advantage of a few breaks."
One such opportunity was Kody Kaiser's at-bat, which produced a missed catch error by Silver Hawks first baseman Michael Mee and a pair of runs for West Michigan. Peter then legged out a run-scoring infield hit and Henry roped a two-run double to left.
Wells, who had fallen behind in the count, 0-2, in his earlier at-bat, cranked a hanging changeup over the left-field wall to cap the scoring of the Whitecaps' first offensive output since the eight-run fifth that clinched Game 5 of the Midwest League Championship Series against Beloit last year.
"I had a few jitters during my first at-bat," admitted Wells. "It's Opening Day and it's exciting, especially since I began last season with extended spring training. I took some pitches and he got ahead. But he threw me a few changeups earlier, and I got a good look. This one was up and I put a good hard swing on it."
Peter and Henry combined for three doubles, six runs and five RBIs. Every starter had either a hit, an RBI or a run scored for West Michigan.
Starter Ramon Garcia (1-0) struck out five and scattered four hits without a walk over six scoreless frames. The 23-year-old left-hander was limited to just six games in 2007 due to a lat injury.
"He was in control from the start," Wells said. "He kept the ball low in the strike zone and elevated it with good velocity when he needed to. It looked like he did a great job of keeping them out of rhythm."
South Bend starter Jordan Norberto (0-1) was tagged for 10 runs -- three earned -- on five hits and four walks in an inning. The 21-year-old southpaw went 6-7 with a 5.28 ERA with the Hawks a year ago.
Clayton Conner delivered a run-scoring double and crossed home plate on Ramon Ramirez's RBI groundout in the eighth. Aaron Hanke and Mee had two hits apiece for the Silver Hawks.
Shane Figueroa is a contributor to MLB.com.