Designated hitter Lance Durham’s night of fours led the West Michigan Whitecaps to a 9-4 victory over the South Bend Silver Hawks on Saturday night. Durham, son of former Chicago Cubs all-star first baseman Leon“Bull” Durham, went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs and four runs scored. Durham’s night backed up a sterling pitching performance by Whitecaps starter Montreal Robertson (2-3) who threw seven innings and scattered eight hits while allowing only one earned run. Josh Turley (S, 1) earned the save for West Michigan (15-17) while starting pitcher Blake Perry (0-2) took the loss for South Bend (20-11).
The Silver Hawks got on the board in the first inning thanks to a pair of infield singles and two West Michigan errors. Fidel Pena led off by beating out a groundball to short. Later, Alex Glenn’s grounder hit off the outstretched glove of first baseman Jeff Holm for another single. However, as second baseman Devon Travis made an attempt on Glenn at first, his throw sailed into the Hawks dugout allowing Pena to advance to third and Glenn to second. Shortstop Kevin Medrano hit a routine ground ball to short, but reached first on a throwing error to keep the inning alive and allow Pena to score the first run of the game.
West Michigan, the Class-A Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, struck back in the second. First baseman Jeff Holm belted a homerun to right field that ricocheted off the scoreboard and knotted the game at 1-1. Durham then walked, advanced to second on Danry Vasquez’s single to left and scored on Jared Reaves’ infield single that took a high bounce over Perry’s head on the mound. After two, the Whitecaps led 2-1.
The Whitecaps added two more runs in the third. Holm walked and then scored as Durham connected on his first double of the night to start the rally. Vasquez followed with a single to shallow center that allowed Durham to score from second. The Hawks were able to end the threat by catching Vasquez trying to swipe second to end the inning.
The Silver Hawks, the Class-A Affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, got a run back in the fourth. Medrano hit a line drive towards right field. West Michigan right fielder Jake Stewart missed on a diving attempt allowing the ball to roll to the wall in deep right center and Medrano to reach third with a triple. Designated hitter, Frazier Hall, then plated Medrano with his sacrifice fly to left and brought the Hawks within two runs at 4-2.
Perry’s night ended in the fifth inning after hitting Travis. Durham then continued his hot hand as the fierce 20 knot wind helped push his high fly ball over the right field wall for a two run homer on a 0-1 offering from South Bend reliever Henry Garcia. The Hawks would threaten in the bottom of the fifth inning on a ground rule double by center fielder Socrates Brito but were unable to cut into the 6-2 lead.
The Whitecaps just kept on adding to their lead in the later innings. Center fielder Austin Schotts led off the top of the sixth inning with a base hit to left. He stole second base and then moved over to third base on a groundout. Stewart lofted a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Schotts, extending the West Michigan lead to 7-2. That lead grew to 8-2 in the top of the seventh inning. Durham led off the inning with a double. He later came around to score on a two-out RBI single by Reaves.
The Hawks mounted their only real threat to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. South Bend was glad to see Whitecaps starter Robinson leave the game and rallied against reliever Julio Felix. Third baseman Brandon Drury singled to lead off the inning and left fielder Alex Glenn followed with another single to put men on first and second. Felix struck out Medrano but first baseman Carter Bell ripped a single to right to load the bases with one out. Felix then struck out Hall but catcher Steve Rodriguez drew a walk on a full count pitch to force in a run and cut the lead to 8-3. The Whitecaps went to the bullpen and called on Turley to get out of the jam. Turley uncorked a wild pitch to score one run but struck out right fielder Michael Lang for the final out of the inning.
West Michigan added an insurance run in the top of the ninth as Durham knocked in his fourth run of the game with a line drive single to center that scored Holm from second. The Hawks went quietly in the bottom of the ninth inning as Turley closed the game out for his first save of the season.
It’s a Mother’s Day matinee at Coveleski Regional Stadium tomorrow as the Hawks take on the Whitecaps in game two of the three game series. All mothers that attend the game eat for free at a prime rib brunch in the Upper Deck from 1-3pm. Family and friends can purchase tickets to the brunch for $15. First pitch is at 2:05pm. Charlie Gillies (0-1, 3.38 ERA) will take the hill for the Whitecaps while Jesse Darrah (2-2, 4.25) gets the start for the Silver Hawks.