By Justin Haggerty

COMSTOCK PARK – West Michigan Whitecaps infielder Will Maddox has started the 2016 campaign on a tear.LSJ Logo incert

He had another two hits on Sunday, raising his season average to a sizzling .404.

But his hits didn’t help the Whitecaps avoid a loss to the Dayton Dragons in the finale of a seven-game home stand. The Whitecaps lost 4-3 in front of a season-high crowd of 4,141 fans at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The defeat left the Whitecaps with a 9-8 record, including a 1-5 mark in day games this season.

The Whitecaps will now travel to Cedar Rapids for the first time since winning the Midwest League championship on the Kernels’ field last September. They will play three in Cedar Rapids, beginning on Tuesday, then three in Quad Cities, before turning home May 2.

With any luck, Maddox will keep swinging a hot bat on the road and help the Caps stay above the .500 mark.

Entering play on Sunday, Maddox was hitting .395 with 17 hits in just 11 games this season, including four consecutive multi-hit performances.

“I’m just seeing the ball well now and just trying to be on time for fastballs and squaring some of them up,” Maddox said. “I’m not doing anything differently. I’m just trying to be consistent with what I do and I’ve been able to have a good string of games. Hopefully I can keep it going.”

“He doesn’t swing at bad pitches, and when he has two strikes he battles,” said Whitecaps manager Andrew Graham about Maddox. “He doesn’t chase balls out of the zone, and when you do that you’re going to hit for a good average.”

Graham said he was happy with his team’s overall performance during the home stand, when they won four of seven games. The Whitecaps struggled against first-place Lake County, losing two of three, but won three of four against last-place Dayton.

“I think the guys played well,” Graham said. “Lake County’s a good team. They got us in the first couple of series against them, but we came back against Dayton.

“In the first game they scored five runs in the first inning and we came back and won. Today we showed a lot of effort. We had the tying run at the plate and that’s all you can ask. One bit hit and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

The Whitecaps fell behind early on Sunday, then clawed their way back and fell just short of tying the game.

Dayton broke through in the second inning with three runs on four hits, with RBIs from Ed Charlton, Jose Siri and leadoff hitter Luis Gonzalez.

The Whitecaps scored a single run in the second inning on an RBI double from catcher Arvicent Perez, scoring first baseman Josh Lester.

The Dragons made the score 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning when Charlton hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Shed Long.

West Michigan scored a run in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Steven Fuentes. and another in the eighth when Rashad Brown scored from third base on a double steal.

Maddox, who took second base on the double steal, advanced to third but was stranded.

In the ninth inning Cam Gibson walked and stole second, but the potential tying run was one again stranded as the Dragons closed out the win.

The Whitecaps hurt themselves with 10 strikeouts and only two walks. Fuentes and Jose Azocar each recorded three K’s for West Michigan.

“Strikeouts happen, especially at this level,” Graham said. “I don’t think their starter had overpowering stuff but he mixed his pitches well. We need to be a little more patient at times at the plate, and sometimes be more aggressive.”

Whitecaps starting pitcher Eudis Idrogo dropped to 1-2 on the season with a 6.14 ERA after giving up four runs on seven hits in five innings. Jon Maciel pitched three innings out of the bullpen, giving up just one hit, and Gerson Moreno finished the game with a one-hit ninth.

Dragons starter Jose Lopez got the win and improved to 3-1. Jeremy Kivel closed and picked up his second save of the year.