FORT WAYNE – Josh VanMeter deflected praise about his baserunning, but TinCaps manager Michael Collins held nothing back.
“He got going,” Collins said of VanMeter’s reaction to a play that caught just about everyone at Parkview Field by surprise. “He knew he was heading into third the whole way. As it turned out, he kept going. That’s the big thing is to continue to keep going until the defense stops you.”
VanMeter touched the plate with his left hand barely ahead of the tag to give the TinCaps a 4-3 win over West Michigan on Monday.
“He got around, for a good slide,” Collins said.
River Stevens became a footnote after West Michigan catcher Bennett Pickar’s botched pickoff play, but Stevens made virtually everything possible.
With one out, none on and a 3-2 deficit in the ninth, Stevens lined a triple over the head of center fielder Austin Schotts, who was playing shallow and shaded toward left.
“I told (hitting coach Morgan Burkhart), ‘I’m looking for a straight fastball and hope I get it,’” Stevens said. “Early in the game I did see that they were kind of (shallow). I wasn’t trying to do too much. I’m glad I was able to make contact.”
Solid contact, and the ball rolled toward the deepest part of the park. That’s when Stevens turned on the jets, but he staggered more than slid into third. He appeared to trip somewhere along the way.
“I rolled my ankle right on second base,” he said. “I’m going down. All I’m thinking is, ‘Got to get it together right now.’ Luckily they made an off throw and I was able to get in there safe.’”
Stevens then scored on Fernando Perez’s tying sacrifice fly.
BULLPEN: Eric Yardley, who had gone 8 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, gave up an RBI single to Pickar in the seventh. Collins said he did not want to use Tayron Guerrero for multiple innings, despite the fact that Guerrero had gotten just four outs in the last five days.
Guerrero entered with two down and two on in the eighth and gave up a tough-luck RBI single to Jeff Holm. The ball never left the infield, and the run wouldn’t have scored if the one-hop bloop had been fielded cleanly by Stevens.
Guerrero improved to 5-0 by throwing a 1-2-3 ninth.
BAUERS POWER: TinCaps first baseman Jake Bauers, who entered with a .974 OPS, went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk. The solo shot in the fourth was his fourth of the season.
RBI MACHINE: TinCaps third baseman Dustin Peterson had an RBI single in the first, extending his league lead to 46 runs driven in.
GONE WITH THE WIND: A distant memory was Sunday, when the TinCaps fell in record fashion. West Michigan won 19-1, but that roller coaster came to a screeching halt Monday.
“Winning close ones where it’s tied or they go ahead and come back is pleasing,” Collins said. “Yesterday is yesterday, whether it’s a good day or bad. It’s yesterday. It’s gone. We have to move on every day. Going into Wednesday off today’s high, we need to continue that again. Definitely, it’s nice to bounce back for sure.”
REST, AT LAST: The TinCaps had played 22 times in 22 days and are off Tuesday.
“The whole team is looking forward to this,” Collins said. “Twenty- two days is a long time to be playing baseball.”