Cedar Rapids rallied in the ninth inning to defeat the Whitecaps, 3-2, in the third game of the Midwest League championship. They scored two runs in the last frame after West Michigan took the lead in the top of the frame for the first time all game. Artie Lewicki pitched more than well enough to win, but the offense only eked out five hits and the bullpen collapsed in the ninth.
The early part of the game featured some wasted opportunities for West Michigan. Ross Kivett and Christin Stewart each doubled in the first two innings, but the Whitecaps failed to drive either runner in. Meanwhile, Artie Lewicki was doing his part to keep the pitcher's duel going. He allowed the first run of the game after Max Murphy of Cedar Rapids led off the third with a triple, followed by a Rafael Valera sacrifice fly. In spite of that, Lewicki was pitching well through the first three innings.
West Michigan finally broke through in the top of the fourth to tie the game. A.J. Simcox banged a line drive into left field for a lead-off double, and Kade Scivicque knocked him in for his fourth RBI of the postseason. It wasn't much, but it was enough to bring the game to a tie.
And tied the game would remain. Lewicki and his counterpart, Keaton Steele, matched each other in putting up zeros. Steele departed after seven innings of one-run ball. The Whitecaps manufactured an opportunity in the top of the eighth after a leadoff walk by Francisco Contreras, but he was left on third. Lewicki was allowed to start the eighth, but Austin Diemer finally squared him up for a one-out double. Gerson Moreno came on and got a fly ball before striking Nick Gordon out to end the threat.
And then the Whitecaps struck.
Michael Gerber keyed the offense once more with a leadoff walk. After Scivicque bunted him to second, Stewart delivered with the RBI single up the middle to take a 2-1 lead. The next two batters struck out, so West Michigan would take a one run lead into the ninth.
And then Cedar Rapids strruck.
Edgar Corcino led off the ninth with a double off of Moreno. T.J. White also reached on a double, although Corcino only made it to third on the play. There was no pitching out of this jam; Joe Jimenez came on and loaded the bases before allowing a game-tying one out sacrifice fly to Max Murphy. Brian Navaretto then hit a ground ball that Contreras could not make any play on. And just like that, with the infield hit, it was 3-2 Cedar Rapids.
The Whitecaps can lose no more games this season if they want to win the Midwest League championship.
Artie Lewicki was masterful in Game 3, keeping the Whitecaps in the game by allowing just one run over seven and a thirds innings of work. He struck out four and walked just one, finishing his postseason with a 0.68 ERA.
Christin Stewart had a pair of hits, including the go-ahead RBI single. He was one of the few bright spots in a very quiet West Michigan offense.
Joey Pankake went 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts, leaving runners on base in multiple occasions.
The bullpen looked reminiscent of the 2015 Detroit Tigers, melting down in the 9th inning to choke away the win. Moreno will be credited with the loss after being in line for the win heading into the ninth.
Up Next: The Whitecaps take on Cedar Rapids again tomorrow in a must-win Game 4, with first pitch at 2:05 p.m. EDT.