FORT WAYNE – Fort Waynes bats came alive – and kept it afloat – in a 16-10 win against South Bend on Friday at Parkview Field.
The TinCaps (47-37) broke a five-game losing streak in front of a crowd of 7,401. They proved they could beat the Midwest League Eastern Division-leading Silver Hawks (54-31) in convincing fashion.
And after mustering just 18 runs in 12 games against South Bend, the TinCaps broke through with 16 runs, 20 hits and a much more confident approach than they had in previous matchups.
Fort Wayne put up five runs in the third inning – more than they had in any game against the Silver Hawks this season.
By the fourth inning, Fort Wayne had scored more runs than the previous three games against South Bend, combined. By the sixth, the TinCaps had broken their second-half high of 13 hits in a game.
It all led up to the second win in 13 tries for Fort Wayne against South Bend.
Matthew Shepherd, formerly a relief pitcher, went 4 2/3 innings in his first start for Fort Wayne. He gave up six hits and one earned run while striking out four.
Fort Wayne led 9-1, but some shaky relief from Ruben Mejia let South Bend back in the game. Mejia gave up four runs in the sixth inning, which cut the lead to 9-5.
Then, the TinCaps offense went to work again.
Fort Wayne piled on five hits and five more runs in the sixth, highlighted by catcher Rodney Daals three-run home run to make it 14-5.
I felt good today at the plate, Daal said. I saw the ball good and just tried to put good swings on it.
And South Bend shot right back.
The Silver Hawks put up a four-run response in the seventh courtesy of a grand slam by Fidel Pena.
A second baseman, Pena had eight RBI and went 4 for 5.
That made it a 14-9, with 13 runs and 10 hits in 1 1/2 innings.
It wasnt the nicest (game), TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. The offense kind of helped them out, backed them up.
By the end, there were 35 hits and 26 runs between the teams.
And, for the TinCaps, the fourth win of the second half.
The team feels confident right now, and thats a great thing because we started the second half not really good, Daal said. We were slumping a lot. We were not seeing the ball, not hitting the ball, swinging at bad pitches. We just got to keep doing what we were doing right here.
Daal led the way with two home runs in a 3-for-5 outing. His six RBI tied a season high for Fort Wayne batters.
As a team, the TinCaps finished one run and one hit behind their season highs in both categories.
Thats the way to finish the series, Valentin said. Thats a team that you want to beat. You want to beat the best. In order to be the best, you want to beat the best.