The West Michigan Whitecaps mustered just four base hits at the plate and walked 11 batters on the mound in an 8-0 season-opening loss to the Fort Wayne TinCaps in front of 2,056 fans Tuesday night at Parkview Field.
The ‘Caps, whose starting lineup featured six players ranked within the Detroit Tigers top 30 prospects, struck out 16 times and only pushed a runner safely to third base once in the contest. On the mound, the Whitecaps walked 11 batters, which tied a 2019 record.
The free passes became a problem for all Whitecaps pitchers on Tuesday night. Starter Keider Montero (0-1) allowed a pair of walks and hit a batter before a potential inning-ending double play turned into a throwing error by second baseman Andre Lipcius helped Fort Wayne take a 2-0 lead. An inning later, Justin Lopez turned a two-out walk and another hit by pitch into a three-run home run to expand the TinCaps edge to 5-0.
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne pitchers dominated from start to finish, as starter Ethan Elliott struck out nine batters in just four shutout innings. Felix Minjarez (1-0) punched out four batters in two scoreless frames to pick up his first win of the season before Austin Smith and Cody Tyler finished the shutout in the final three innings.
The top three hitters in the ‘Caps order, Trei Cruz, Spencer Torkelson, and Parker Meadows, went a combined 0-for-10 with eight strikeouts in the loss.
Montero allowed five runs in 2.2 innings while walking four and striking out three in taking his first loss of the season. West Michigan falls to 0-1 on the season, while Fort Wayne improves to 1-0 in 2021. The defeat for West Michigan marks their widest margin of defeat in an opening day loss throughout their 28-year franchise history. The previous high was five runs, set in a 7-2 loss to the Battle Creek Yankees on April 3, 2003.
This six-game series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps continues on Wednesday at 7:05 pm, with pitcher Hugh Smith getting the start for West Michigan against the TinCaps Matt Waldron. Broadcast coverage with Dan Hasty begins on the Whitecaps Baseball Network at 6:50 pm. A limited number of tickets are available for select Whitecaps 2021 home contest by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or by visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.