Fort Wayne dragged itself through the first six innings of its game against West Michigan on Sunday at Parkview Field.
Then, a pitcher came to the plate and changed the game.
After stumbling to a 6-1 deficit, the TinCaps relaxed and rallied to an 8-6 win thanks to a bunt single by reliever Joe Church.
It was Churchs first hit as a pro. The opportunity came after shortstop Stephen Carmon was ejected in the fifth inning and DH Diego Goris had to play the field.
I got not choice but to just let Church go up there and hit down 6-1 with one out, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. Everything started from there.
The hit visibly loosened up the TinCaps dugout, Valentin said, and Fort Wayne (32-23) got the first run of the rally in its next at-bat.
Right fielder Brian Adams hit the first of his two doubles, and the comeback was on.
West Michigan (27-27) gave up four runs in the seventh inning and three in the eighth. After three hits and nine strikeouts in the first six innings, Fort Wayne got seven runs and seven hits with only one strikeout in its final two innings at the plate.
Leonel Campos (2-1) got the win, and Roman Madrid picked up his 10th save.
They just went out there to have fun, and after that, everything just went great, Valentin said. We got some hits with two outs, men on scoring position, something weve been horrible at all year round. We just started playing great baseball.
The comeback bailed out TinCaps lefty Max Fried, who threw 3 1/3 innings and gave up six hits and six earned runs in a sloppy start.
Church came in and went the next 3 2/3 innings with one hit and four strikeouts.
He also had that game-changing bunt and a teammate-administered Powerade bath after the game.
It felt amazing, he said, still drenched. The rally started coming, the runs started coming and I was like, We got this game. We got it.
Four players had multihit games for Fort Wayne, and the TinCaps bullpen held the Whitecaps scoreless after their early surge.
Adams, whose doubles started and completed the rally, was tense after the rocky start. He struck out twice to start earlier.
Obviously, I didnt start the game too hot, said Adams, who had three RBI. Thats kind of how the game goes. Baseball, itll beat you down.
Churchs hit and 4,918 fans in attendance helped pick the team back up.
This win wasnt in extra innings – the TinCaps are 4-0 in that situation. It wasnt a walk-off – Fort Wayne has six of those.
But it was, Valentin said, the teams hardest-fought and best win of the season.
Its how the game of baseball goes sometimes: It just takes one simple thing for everything to start, Valentin said. This one for me today is ranked No. 1 – not just because we come back, but the way we do it.