Saturday, September 16, 2006

West Michigan Whitecaps - 2006 Midwest League CHAMPIONS!

How sweet it is...!

Whitecaps run the flag around the field after winning the championship.

COMSTOCK PARK – The West Michigan Whitecaps jumped out to an 8-0 lead through four innings and cruised to an 8-4 win over Kane County to claim the fourth Midwest League Championship in the 13 year history of the team. West Michigan won the series, 3 games to 1.

Erik Averill turned in six shutout innings as the Whitecaps starting pitcher while the Cougars pitching staff struggled. No single Kane County pitcher threw more than 2.1 innings in the final game.

The Whitecaps touched starter Kenny Durost for five runs on seven hits in just 2.1 innings. Reliever Joe Newby allowed three runs on five hits in 1.2 innings on the mound.

Will Rhymes went 4-for-4 with two stolen bases, two runs and an RBI for the ‘Caps. Mark Haske went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored.

Matt Joyce hit a towering two-run home run to right field in the third inning to make the West Michigan lead, 4-0.

The only runs scored in the game by Kane County were on a grand slam in the seventh. Reliever Jose Fragoso walked two batters and hit another to load the bases with one out for Anthony Recker to set up the slam, which cut the lead in half at 8-4.

Ricky Steik threw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief for the Whitecaps and Anthony Claggett tossed a scoreless ninth including a called strikeout of Jose Pineda to clinch the title.

Rowdy Crowd: The Attendance of 4,014 for game four means the Whitecaps drew the top two crowds in the entire Midwest League playoffs. 4,172 was the attendance for game two of the first round series against Fort Wayne.

Championship Facts: The Whitecaps other Midwest League Championships were earned in 1996, 1998 and 2004. In 2004, the ‘Caps beat Kane County in the Championship Series, 3 games to 2. West Michigan has never lost a Championship Series.

This was the tenth playoff appearance in the 13 year history of the team. West Michigan is 36-23 all time in playoff games, including a 7-2 mark this season.

It is the second title for third-year Whitecaps manager Matt Walbeck, who guided the club to the championship in 2004 has reached the playoffs in each of his season as the manager. In 2005, the Whitecaps were one series away from the finals as the fell to the eventual league champions in the Eastern Division Championship Series.

The Midwest League crown is the culmination of a highly successful season that saw the Whitecaps establish several new records, including wins in July (23-6), home runs in a game by an individual (3 by Mike Hollimon), grand slams in a season by an individual (2 by Cameron Maybin) and fewest errors in a season (142). Plus, for the second straight year, West Michigan pitching coach A. J. Sager led the top pitching staff in the Midwest League (2.96 ERA). And Mike Hernandez became the first player in the history of the Midwest League to hit for the cycle twice in one season.

Erik Averill warms up as A.J. Sager looks on.

One more picture of Dusty...