The 2018 Draft is already paying dividends for the Whitecaps.
A strike away from being forced into a decisive Game 3, Luke Sherley scored the tying run in the ninth and then knocked in the go-ahead run the following frame to lift Class A West Michigan to a 2-1 victory over Great Lakes on Thursday at Dow Diamond. The Whitecaps swept the best-of-3 Midwest League first-round series.
Gameday box score
"It ain't over till it's over," said West Michigan skipper Lance Parrish. "You know, the grit is starting to show up more consistently. We haven't scored a ton of runs, but pitching has been keeping us in it until we find a way. I give these guys a lot of credit, just finding a way to win, that's been the bottom line."
Trailing 1-0 in the ninth, the Whitecaps had runners on first and second with two outs when Reece Hampton stepped to the dish. The 12th-rounder fell behind 1-2 against lefty Darien Nunez. He took a defensive hack at the next pitch and blooped a single the opposite way that dropped just inside the right-field line to drive Sherley home.
"It was a big-time, clutch swing from Reece," Sherley said. "Guys were definitely fired up after that, but everyone knew more work had to be done to win this game."
"That was a big boost for everybody. It wasn't looking too good at that point. We just couldn't muster anything up and missed our opportunities early," Parrish added. "But that's what happens when you continue to battle. He got the bat on the ball and it found a hole and we scored. Maybe a little fortune there, but that run reinvigorated everybody in the dugout."
Complete playoff coverage
Sherley, the Tigers' 14th-round selection, came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th. He jumped ahead 3-0 against left-hander Austin Drury. After taking the next pitch for a called strike, the Texas State product sent a 3-1 fastball right back up the middle. Loons shortstop Jacob Amaya attempted a back-handed flip to the second baseman for the forceout, but the throw pulled Deacon Liput off the bag and everyone was safe.
"There were just good at-bats that whole inning to get the bases loaded, so I was just trying to put the ball in play and try to make something happen for the team there," said Sherley, who finished 1-for-2 with three walks. "My mentality was the same as it was the whole game. Just not trying to do too much. Take it one pitch at a time and try to get to first base."
"I give him props, he put himself in a great situation there by working the count 3-0," Parrish added. "He knew there was no way they're going to throw him something off-speed there, so he was able to sit on a fastball. He was mentally prepared and he did the job he had to do. ... Since he's been here, he's been a quality guy. Really a team leader. Always upbeat and positive, and he leads by example."
Right-hander Wilkel Hernandez allowed one run on four hits and a walk while striking out four over five frames for West Michigan. Righties Dylan Stock and Billy Lescher (1-0) yielded three hits and a walk over the final five scoreless innings. The duo whiffed five.
West Michigan will face Bowling Green in Game 1 of the best-of-3 semifinal series Saturday at Fifth Third Ballpark.
In other Midwest League playoff action:
Chiefs 7, River Bandits 2
Right-hander Zach Prendergast worked around two unnearned runs on three hits and a walk while fanning a season-high 11 over five frames to notch his first postseason victory and send Peoria into the semifinals. Second-ranked Cardinals prospect Nolan Gorman drove in a pair of runs while righty C.J. Saylor and southpaw Fabian Blanco combined to toss four shutout innings of relief for the Chiefs. Saylor allowed two hits and the pair combined for six punchouts. Gameday box score
Hot Rods 4, Lugnuts 3
Moises Gomez clubbed a two-run dinger and an RBI single as Bowling Green swept the series. No. 12 Rays prospect Vidal Brujan finished 2-for-3 with a triple and scored three times -- including the decisive run in the eighth. Right-hander Tommy Romero (1-0) allowed a run on four hits with a walk and whiffed six over a season-long seven innings. Gameday box score
Kernels 10, Snappers 1
Cedar Rapids went yard four times, including a pinch-hit grand slam from Trey Cabbage and a pair of dingers from Ryan Jeffers, who finished 3-for-4 with a walk, three RBIs and three runs scored. Right-hander Jhoan Duran, the Twins' No. 23 prospect, yielded a run on three hits with three walks while matching a career-best 10 strikeouts. Gameday box score