By Andrew Johnson
COMSTOCK PARK – The West Michigan Whitecaps may have had their season opener postponed on Thursday, but when they finally took the field for a doubleheader on Friday, they showed exactly how good their pitching can be.
The second game ended dramatically when Blaise Salter hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 16th, scoring Jacob Robson from second base.
While every West Michigan pitcher had a noticeable performance, it was Game 1 starter Kyle Funkhouser who stood out.
The Detroit Tigers’ 2016 fourth-round draft pick gave up one hit in five innings while striking out nine Cub hitters to earn the win.
“He was electric,” said Whitecaps manager Mike Rabelo about Funkhouser’s performance. “I saw what everybody else saw. His fastball, the command, the velocity, the sinker, the breaking ball that was fun to watch.”
Funkhouser found his groove with two outs in the second inning when he struck out the final batter, then struck out the side in the third.
“It felt great,” Funkhouser said. “It was a great feeling. I felt good. Little jitters in the beginning. I was kind of riding it out and getting ahead early. I definitely got to a rhythm, though.”
West Michigan scored its lone two runs in the bottom of the second with two outs, after two South Bend errors put runners on first and second.
Facing a 1-1 count, third basemen Anthony Pereira ripped a fly ball to the deep right-center gap for a triple, scoring Austin Athmann and Cole Bauml.
Joe Navilhon and Bryan Garcia each pitched one inning in relief for the Whitecaps, combining to give up one hit while striking out three batters.
In Game 2, pitching was once again the story. Each team managed only six hits in 16 innings, but the most important West Michigan hit came from Salter in the bottom of the 16th.
Facing two outs with a full count, Salter hit a single to right field that scored Jacob Robson from second base for the game-winning run.
Salter had struggled earlier in the game, going 0-for-6 with five strikeouts, but said he confidence never wavered.
“I’m a guy who isn’t too hard on himself, and you just have to battle to try and get a hit,” he said.
Whitecaps starter Eudis Idrogo went five innings while giving up three hits and striking out five Cub hitters. South Bend starter Tyson Miller lasted 4 and 2/3 innings while allowing four hits and striking out seven Whitecap hitters.
The best chance for South Bend to score was in the top of the fourth inning when the Cubs put runners on first and third with one out.
But Idrogo struck out Wladimir Galindo for the second out and coaxed Kevonte Mitchell into a ground out to end the Cub threat.
Pitcher Trent Szkutnik came on in relief for West Michigan in the 15th inning and picked up the win.