The Loons jumped out in front thanks to four consecutive two-out hits in the top of the sixth. Whitecaps’ reliever Patrick Cooper struck out the first two batters of the inning before Nick Akins smacked a double to right-center and Chris Henderson rolled a tie-breaking single through the right side of the infield. Jon Garcia followed with an RBI double to right-center and Michael Pericht drove him in with a liner up the middle, capping the rally and staking Great Lakes to a 3-0 lead.
West Michigan scored its only run in the bottom half of the inning. Hernan Perez led off with a single to left and advanced to second when the outfielder bobbled the ball. After he moved to third on a groundout, Ryan Enos bounced an infield single up the middle that pulled the ‘Caps to within 3-1.
The bullpens took over from there.
Ramon Lebron and Michael Torrealba combined for 3 1/3 hitless innings of relief the rest of the way for West Michigan, while Pete Budkevics and Shawn Tolleson fired off three scoreless frames for Great Lakes.
Tolleson earned the save with three strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning.
Kevin Eichhorn started and threw four scoreless frames for the Whitecaps, making his first start in the Tigers’ organization since being acquired as part of the Armando Galaragga trade in January. The right-hander allowed just two hits while fanning two and walking a pair. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters that he faced before running into trouble in the fourth, but was able to work out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam to temporarily preserve the shutout.
The Whitecaps continue their season-opening homestand at Fifth Third Ballpark with the second game of a four-game series against Great Lakes today at noon. RHP Jeff Ferrell is scheduled to start for West Michigan against RHP Red Patterson of the Loons.