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It took two days and 10 innings, but the West Michigan Whitecaps defeated the South Bend Cubs by a score of 4-3 in Game 3 of the Midwest League Quarterfinals Saturday afternoon, advancing to the Eastern Division championship series for the second consecutive season.
The championship series, against either Bowling Green or Great Lakes (who played the deciding game of their series on Saturday night) will begin Sunday, with the Whitecaps will be on the road. The Caps will host Game 2 on Monday at 6:35 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, would also be a home game for West Michigan.
It looked early in the contest that South Bend may run away with Game 3, taking a 3-0 lead after four innings on Friday night. As the fifth inning began Friday night, a steady rain began to pour, but the two teams played on with hopes to complete the game that evening.
The Whitecaps vaulted themselves back into the ballgame when Cam Gibson ripped an RBI-single to right field in the fifth to bring the score to 3-1. Joey Havrilak plated Gibson from first base when he lofted a run-scoring double over the head of Cubs outfielder and Midwest League MVP Eloy Jimenez to bring the ‘Caps to a 3-2 deficit.
An inning later, David Gonzalez executed a squeeze bunt to perfection to score Arvicent Perez and tie the game at three.
In the eighth, with the rain increasing in intensity, Perez reached on an infield single to begin the inning. Jose Azocar stepped to the plate, and after fouling off the first with a failed bunt attempt, play was halted and the decision was made soon-after to suspend the game until Saturday afternoon.
As play resumed on a cool and clear Saturday, more than 20 hours after the game began, Azocar executed a perfect bunt to move Perez to second base, but the ‘Caps failed to score Perez, eventually pushing the game into extra innings. g
In the tenth, Azocar returned to the plate with one out and Will Allen at second base. The ‘Caps center fielder sent the first pitch he saw past the Cubs diving shortstop Isaac Paredes into center field for a base hit, scoring Allen on a close play at home plate to give West Michigan its decisive lead.