Yeison Asencio entered Friday second in the race for the Midwest Leagues batting crown. But with a playoff berth on the line, Fort Waynes No. 3 hitter wanted to sacrifice for the team.
He came to me before he stepped to the plate. He said, Chief, Ive been hitting a lot of ground balls, and I dont want to hit into a double play, Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin said. He said, I want to play for the team. And I want to win.
That kind of approach is why the TinCaps are going to the playoffs for a fourth year in a row.
Leading by two runs, Asencio placed down a perfect bunt in the sixth inning against West Michigan, moving two runners into scoring position. Austin Hedges eventually knocked both runners in with a single on the way to a 7-0 victory in front of 7,721 fans at Parkview Field.
With the win, the TinCaps clinched a spot in the playoffs.
The TinCaps (37-30, 68-69 overall) lead West Michigan (34-33, 70-67) by three games with three regular-season games remaining. Fort Wayne won the season series, 10-9, which is the first tiebreaker for the playoffs.
Weve worked so hard all year, weve had our ups and downs. To finally clinch it, it feels awesome, said Hedges, who was 2 for 4.
The TinCaps held West Michigan to two hits on the way to taking the rubber match of the three-game series.
Weve come together as a team. The pitching was so good in the first half and now the bats have come alive, Hedges said. The camaraderie on this team is outstanding. We have a lot of fun and its showing on the field right now.
Fort Wayne will play either Lansing or Bowling Green in an opening-round series. The first game will be Wednesday at Parkview Field.
Lake County also qualified as the other Eastern Division playoff team Friday with a 9-3 win over Bowling Green.
The Captains have a one-game lead over the TinCaps for the second-half division title. Lake County also holds the tiebreaker over Fort Wayne.
Fort Wayne led 2-0 in the sixth. James Jones relieved Erik Cabrera with the bases loaded and one out. He got Jason King to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Fort Wayne broke the game open with four in the bottom of the sixth. Travis Jankowski and Jace Peterson singled. Asencio bunted them over. Pinch-hitter Travis Whitmore was intentionally walked, loading the bases for Hedges. The catcher drove in two with a single to right field.
I was just trying to be short and put the ball in play, and it ended up working out pretty good, Hedges said.
The TinCaps added two more runs in the inning on an error.
Now, essentially the same team that finished next-to-last in the first half is headed to the playoffs.
They didnt give up, Valentin said. They came here not only to play, but to be better. They didnt quit at all, all year.