Stephanie Sokol for The Pit
Joint efforts from West Michigan Whitecaps right-hander Austin Kubitza and new shortstop Will Adames helped the team defeat the Beloit Snappers 2-1 Sunday afternoon, a game that allowed them to complete a three game sweep.
“He saved me on one when they hit a ball right at him. It was a great play,” Kubitza said of a bullet hit by Beloit’s Luis Baez in the second inning. “And he turned the double play for me, too. So he’s done well so far.”
After watching teammates in the rotation pitch lights-out this week, Kubitza was not going to be an exception, improving to 2-0 with a microscopic 0.84 ERA.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure, but we all want to do well,” said Kubitza, who was drafted in the fourth round out of Rice University last summer. “We like the competition, so it helps us all out.”
While it was a rough start to the season for the starting rotation of Jonathon Crawford, Buck Farmer and Kubitza have have greatly improved, reaching a combined 0.74 ERA in their last starts, allowing only two runs in 23 innings pitched during the last four outings.
“Two days ago when Buck and I were (charting pitches), we were comparing how we pitch to certain batters,” Kubitza said. “We try to help each other out as much as we can. It’s a team game.”
In addition to being new to the Whitecaps, Adames is also new to the U.S. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 for $420,000, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder 18-year-old is listed by Baseball America as the No. 30 prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization.
The shortstop hit .245 playing in the Dominican Summer League last year, and was sent to the Whitecaps Saturday after spring training, following infielder Curt Powell being called to Class-A Lakeland.
“I feel good. Excited,” he said via hitting coach Nelson Santovenia, who served as his interpreter. “I wasn’t sure where I would play my first year. I’m excited to be at this level.”
At his debut with the Whitecaps, Adames eat out a ground ball to third base in the second inning of his first at-bat, in addition to hitting another single in the sixth to finish 2-f-or-3. He said he was excited to call and share his feelings about the experience with his father Romelo in the Dominican and godfather Jimmy Ceollado who is residing in New York.
Early in the first inning, Leadoff hitter Jose Zombrano hit a single, and brought the team to a 1-0 lead, with no more scoring until the fifth inning. At that point, the Whitecaps took another run, when Brett Harrison led off left with a single, to which Zambrano walked and Javier Betancourt got infield single to load the bases.
The wind knocked down Raph Rhymes’ hit, allowing the center fielder to catch the ball. But following that moment, Harrison tagged and scored, leaving Whitecaps 2-0.
Three more innings passed until Beloit earned their run, by B.J. Boyd. Then Jon Maciel got two quick outs, though he walked the next two batters and was pulled.
Lefty Jon Mantiply was called on next and he struck out Boyd, with his swing ending the game, and earning him his first career save. A 27th round draf of Virginia Tech, Mantiply is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in eight innings.
Ficociello, Adames and Zambrano got two hits at the plate, and the team earned nine hits total, all of which were singles.
Though he had a strong performance, Beloit starting pitcher Ronald Herrera (1-1) got the loss after giving up two earned runs and not sriking out a batter in six innings.
The Whitecaps will be out on the road for their next game, which is the first of a six-game road trip in Quad Cities on Tuesday. They return for a seven-game homestand on April 21.