FORT WAYNE – The second half of the season is just three games old, but TinCaps manager Jose Valentin already senses something different about his team.
We’re more aggressive, we have better intensity, Valentin said. Guys are battling for nine innings.
The TinCaps staged a late rally Sunday but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 4-2 loss to Lake County in front of 5,269 fans at Parkview Field.
Fort Wayne collected four hits in the ninth inning and had the tying run on first base before Kyle Gaedele hit into a force play that ended the game.
We battled to the end. I’m happy to see that. It’s something I didn’t see in the first half, Valentin said. Every time we were down by two runs late (in the first half), we’d get a one, two, three (inning) and the game is over. Today, we fought all the way.
I’m happy for the effort today. I have a good feeling from what I’ve seen so far.
Fort Wayne (2-1, 33-40 overall) entered Sunday looking to complete its first three-game home sweep since May 27-29, 2011, against Great Lakes.
The TinCaps topped Lake County 4-3 on Friday and 4-0 on Saturday. In both games, Fort Wayne scored early.
The Captains (1-2, 32-40) jumped ahead early Sunday with a run in the first inning on a two-out RBI single by Jordan Smith. A solo home run by Alex Lavisky in the second inning made it 2-0. Lake County added two more runs in the third off Fort Wayne starting pitcher Colin Rea.
Dennis O’Grady replaced Rea in the fourth. He pitched four scoreless innings to keep the TinCaps in the game.
I really went back to pounding the zone, trying to throw strikes in and out with my fastball and just get back to form, said O’Grady, who gave up three hits and struck out one. It was a good way to start the second half.
Fort Wayne got a run in the fifth when Duanel Jones scored from second on an infield hit by Gaedele.
Pinch hitter Felix Cabrera started the rally in the ninth with a one-out double to left. Mike Gallic moved him to third with a single.
Cabrera attempted to score on a wild pitch. But the ball bounced back quickly to Lake County catcher Patric Tolentino, who tossed it to pitcher Kyle Petter in time to tag out Cabrera.
Gallic advanced to second on the wild pitch and scored on a single by Jones. Pinch hitter Austin Hedges singled, bringing Gaedele to the plate as the potential game-winning run. Gaedele hit into the force play, and Fort Wayne had to settle for taking two of three.
The team is pleased with its start to the second half.
I think the four days off (for the All-Star break) was really good for us, said Tyler Stubblefield, who went 2 for 3 with a walk. We got to clear our minds and start over in the second half. We have a lot of talent on this team and we want to make a push to make the playoffs.