SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- The South Bend Silver Hawks (78-55) completed a three game sweep of the West Michigan Whitecaps (80-54) Tuesday night at Four Winds Field.
En route to the 5-3 victory, the Silver Hawks put up 7 hits, four of them for extra bases.
Designated hitter Jamie Westbrook and catcher Michael Perez collected doubles, left fielder Chuck Taylor laced a triple to right center, and center fielder DJ Bowman led the way with a two-run home run in the 5th inning.
The South Bend pitchers took care of the rest. Starter Brent Jones (W, 5-2) pitched six solid innings, giving up two runs on six hits, while recordings 4 strikeouts against 2 walks. The bullpen took it the rest of the way. Bud Jeter and Jose Jose kept the Whitecaps off the board, before turning the game over to Silvino Bracho (S, 26), who --- despite giving up a home run --- earned his league-leading 26th save.
The South Bend Silver Hawks, Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, jumped out to an early lead by plating a run in the bottom of the first. Shortstop Andrew Velazquez led off with a single to center. Velazquez barely had a chance to catch his breath as Taylor followed with a triple to the wall in right-center allowing Velazquez to score. Taylor’s RBI put the Hawks in front 1-0.
The West Michigan Whitecaps, Class-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, evened the score with a run of their own in the top of the fourth. Right fielder Wynton Bernard led off the frame with a single to right. Bernard was able to move up to third on left fielder Mike Gerber’s single to shallow right-center. Designated hitter Raph Rhymes then grounded to Velazquez at short. Velazquez made a diving stop but double clutched on the toss to Fidel Pena covering second. Gerber was forced out 6-4 at second, but Westbrook’s throw to first was tardy in the double play attempt and Bernard crossed the plate to knot the score at 1-1.
South Bend called on the long ball to regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Westbrook started the inning with a double into the left field corner off West Michigan starter Jon Maciel (L, 6-7). A sacrifice bunt by first baseman Marty Herum pushed Westbrook into scoring position at second. However, Westbrook was able to trot home from second as Bowman launched a 0-1 offering from Maciel over the left field fence. The two run round tripper pushed the Hawks back in front at 3-1.
The Whitecaps inched closer with a single run in the top of the six. Second baseman Javier Betancourt and Gerber led off the inning with back-to-back singles to right off Jones. Jones then settled down and induced both Rhymes and third baseman Dominic Ficociello to fly out to right. However, a bloop single to shallow center by first baseman Jeff Holm brought Betancourt home to make it a one run ballgame at 3-2.
The Hawks added insurance runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. Perez started the sixth with a double that ended up in the right field corner after bouncing off the glove of a diving Bernard. During third baseman Joe Munoz’s at-bat, a passed ball moved Perez to third. Munoz then collected the RBI as he lofted a ball into deep left to score Perez on the sacrifice. Then in the seventh Bowman drew a walk from West Michigan reliever Montreal Robertson. A single to center by Pena pushed Bowman to second. A passed ball during Velazquez’s at-bat allowed Bowman to advance to third and Pena to second. Velazquez then drove the ball deep enough into center field for Bowman to score on the sacrifice fly and put the Hawks ahead 5-2.
West Michigan attempted to rally in the top of the ninth. Hawks closer Bracho retired Ficociello and Holm in order for the first two outs of the inning. Shortstop Domingo Leyba then launched the first pitch he saw toward the video board and over the right field fence for a solo homer. Bracho returned to form, getting catcher Bennett Pickar to ground back to the mound, securing the Hawks 5-3 victory for his Midwest League leading 26th save.
Although both West Michigan and South Bend have already clinched playoff spots, the South Bend sweep has implications for the second round of the playoffs. In the Divisional Round of the Midwest League playoffs, home field advantage is awarded to the team with the best record for the entire season. If both the Silver Hawks and West Michigan win their first round series, they will face each other in the second round. With Tuesday’s win, the Hawks pull within 1.5 games of the Whitecaps for the overall best record in the Eastern Division.
The Silver Hawks return to action Wednesday night, when they will welcome the Bowling Green Hot Rods to Four Winds Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Right hander Sean Furney (8-7, 3.89 ERA) will take the mound for South Bend, while Jacob Faria (7-9, 3.42 ERA) will start for West Michigan.
If you’re 12 year old or younger dinner is on us on Wednesday. All kids 12 and under get a voucher at the gate for a free hot dog, chips and a drink. Kids Eat Free is presented by Aunt Millie’s. And get to the ballpark early! The first 1000 fans through the gates will receive a Silver Hawks 2014-2015 calendar.