By Andrew Johnson
COMSTOCK PARK – Third place will have to wait for the West Michigan Whitecaps.
West Michigan will finish its seven-game home stand and three-game series with Bowling Green on Thursday at 11 a.m.
Timely hitting made the difference in the contest. Bowling Green was 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position while the Whitecaps were only 1-for-10.
Those stats represent a problem in both the pitching and hitting departments, according to West Michigan Manager Andrew Graham.
“They came up with some big hits with runners in scoring position and we need to bear down and make good pitches in those situations,” said Graham, whose team dropped to 19-17 on the year.
“We just haven’t been getting the job done. We had some situations today with runners on first and second and no out and couldn’t get the bunt down. That can’t happen for us to be a winning ball club.”
The Whitecaps may have missed their biggest opportunity in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Trailing by three, they appeared to be starting a rally when Leo Laffita and Arvicent Perez opened the inning with back-to-back singles.
Cam Gibson was unable to get a bunt down and ended up striking out. Rashad Brown stepped up to the plate and had a 1-2 count before a passed ball snuck away from Hot Rods catcher Brett Sullivan.
Sullivan recovered the ball quickly and threw out Laffita, who was attempting to advance to third. Then the Hot Rods threw out Perez on the same play at he tried to take second.
The 2-5-4 double play ended the inning and let Bowling Green pitcher Henry Centeno off the hook.
That misfortune occurred after Bowling Green benefitted from a controversial call in the top of the fifth.
Bowling Green collected its first two hits against Whitecaps starting pitcher Jordan Smith in the inning. One of those hits was a double by Manny Sanchez down the third-base line that scored two Hot Rods.
Graham argued the call, claiming the double was a foul ball, but his argument went nowhere.
Bowling Green added another run in the inning to take a 3-0 lead that proved to be more than enough.
“It was a big call that unfortunately went against us,” said Graham about the fair ball. “But ultimately we didn’t control the inning and they came up with big hits.”
Bowling Green extended its lead to 6-0 in the top of the eighth, before West Michigan got on the board with a Brown groundout that scored Perez.
West Michigan scored its second run in the ninth inning with double from Laffita that scored Josh Lester. The game ended with Laffita stranded on second base.
The Whitecaps outhit the Hot Rods 10-7, with Perez, Laffita and Ismael Salgado collecting two hits apiece. Smith took the loss for West Michigan on the mound.