The Midwest League playoffs hit Grand Rapids Wednesday evening for the season's second-half qualifying West Michigan Whitecaps (1-0), their second consecutive playoff appearance under second-year manager Andrew Graham. As fans piled into Fifth Third Ballpark, West Michigan front man Spencer Turnbull (1-0, 3.00 ERA) did not disappoint.
The big righthander work six strong innings for West Michigan, fanning seven and holding Fort Wayne (0-1) to a pair of runs off seven hits. Trae Santos was the only TinCap to carry Turnbull deep when he drove a sixth-inning offering over the left field wall.
Ross Kivett carried the West Michigan offense by posting a pair of the eight overall hits on the night for the Whitecaps, including the addition of a pair of RBI. Following heads up baserunning on a throwing error by Fort Wayne, Kivett was the first to cross the plate for West Michigan off a groundout by A.J. Simcox in the top of the first.
Kivett again worked his magic in the second by doubling in Joey Pankake and Will Kengor to give West Michigan the 3-0 lead. A sacrifice bunt from David Gonzalez in the fourth carried Will Kengor home for his second run of the night. Quick thinking by Kivett got him safely to the bag following a second throwing error from Fort Wayne, giving just enough to Francisco Contreras to scamper home for some insurance for West Michigan.
Trey Teakell continued solid relief work for Turnbull through a pair of innings, posting two strikeouts and resident flame thrower Joe Jimenez successfully closed out the night for the Whitecaps to take game one in convincing fashion.
Spencer Turnbull: When Spencer Turnbull locks in, the Midwest League opponents of the Whitecaps don't take it lightly. Turnbull has shown increasing improvement on pitch placement, while his form and power have never been in question. In addition to his seven strikeouts, Turnbull clocked 100 pitches through six innings and still managed to touch the high-90's in speed as he reached the mid to high-90's in his overall pitch count.
Uncharacteristic silence at the plate from three of West Michigan's top performers was not something Whitecaps fan are used to as of late. Michael Gerber, Christin Stewart and Kade Scivicque combined for a muffled 0-for-16 at the plate against Fort Wayne. Scivicque is 1-for-20, Gerber is 2-for-19 and Stewart is 3-for-20 in their last five games.
The man that West Michigan has come to know affectionately as "Little Iggy," David Gonzalez once again found a way to electrify the crowd with a little infield magic.
Midwest League Playoffs (Game 2): West Michigan will hit the road on Thursday for game two of the best-of-three series, hosted by Fort Wayne. A.J. Ladwig (12-9, 3.59 ERA) is slated to take the mound for West Michigan.