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TinCaps

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    Randy Smith, vice president of player development for the San Diego Padres, sat in the office of TinCaps manager Michael Collins before Fort Wayne’s playoff opener and ruminated on the clubs’ 16-year partnership.
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    The TinCaps went 63-76 in 2014 but won a round in the postseason before bowing out Sunday in the Eastern Divison championship series.
  • Captains eliminate TinCaps
    The long faces said it all.The TinCaps’ chase for a second Midwest League championship came to a halt Sunday night as Lake County sent them home for the winter with a 5-4 loss in Game 2 to wrap up the Eastern Division Championship
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Championship
TinCaps vs. Wisconsin
(Wisconsin wins 3-1)
Game 1: Wisconsin 3, Fort Wayne 2 (10 inn.)
Game 2: Fort Wayne 5, Wisconsin 1
Game 3: Wisconsin 10,
Fort Wayne 8
Game 4: Wisconsin 4,
Fort Wayne 2
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
TinCaps fans show their support after Fort Wayne dropped its final game of the season, falling to Wisconsin in Game 4 of the Midwest League finals Sunday at Parkview Field.
Wisconsin 4, TinCaps 2

Tip your caps to Wisconsin

Rattlers claim league title with Game 4 victory

Lee Orr stood at home plate, frozen for a moment, as Wisconsin players celebrated just behind Parkview Field’s pitcher’s mound.

The Fort Wayne slugger had just struck out looking. He was the final batter in the TinCaps’ surprising postseason run.

Wisconsin captured the Midwest League title, defeating the TinCaps 4-2 in Game 4 in front of 2,390 fans Sunday at Parkview Field.

“We just couldn’t get the big hits when we needed them, and they did,” Orr said. “They had a bunch of big-momentum hits, and it was too much for us to overcome.

“…It was just a bad feeling knowing that it’s over.”

The Timber Rattlers won the series 3-1 and captured their first title since coming into existence in 1995.

The TinCaps were attempting to win their second championship in franchise history. Fort Wayne won the title in 2009. The TinCaps fell a little short, but manager Jose Valentin was proud of the team’s growth throughout the season.

“The way we played in the first half, I never thought we would be in this position here today,” Valentin said. “They put a lot of white hairs in me. But I’m happy. Good players make mistakes, they learn from it, and they never backed down.

“They got tired of losing. They went out there and battled every day. You’ve got to be happy. That’s the way you are supposed to play the game of baseball.”

Fort Wayne went 31-39 in the first half and finished in seventh in the eight-team Eastern Division. The team went 38-32 in the second half with essentially the same roster – Travis Jankowski was a key addition – to earn the Eastern Division’s wild card slot. Fort Wayne beat Lansing and Lake County in the first two rounds to advance to the Midwest League finals.

“We kind of stumbled toward the end (of the regular season),” Orr said. “We backed our way into the playoffs and almost backed up and took the trophy.”

Wisconsin instead wrapped up the title behind the strong pitching of Chad Thompson and Brent Suter.

Thompson gave up two runs on five hits in six innings. Suter pitched the three hitless innings for the save.

Fort Wayne’s 5-9 hitters went 0 for 16. Wisconsin retired 19 of the final 20 Fort Wayne hitters.

“They made good pitches when they had to make them,” said Tyler Stubblefield, who went 1 for 3 with one run scored. “We just couldn’t get a big hit today. Unfortunately, it was a bad game to pick to not be able to get it.”

Fort Wayne starter James Needy gave up two runs on five hits in six innings. Wisconsin grabbed the 4-2 lead in the seventh inning when Nick Ramirez hit a two-run double off of reliever Brandon Alger.

“You just have to give credit to the hitter. He made an adjustment and put the bat on the ball and hit it into the (right field) corner,” Valentin said.

Fort Wayne battled but never put together a final rally.

“We started the second half with a new mentality,” Stubblefield said. “We were not going to give up, we were going to fight and fight. And it showed. We fought all playoffs.”

Note: Fort Wayne set a franchise attendance record with 408,044 fans this season.

lpope@jg.net

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