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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 28, 2017 4:40 pm

Game 22: TinCaps (7-14) vs. South Bend (13-8)

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are celebrating Halfway to Halloween tonight and inviting fans to wear costumes to Parkview Field for the second game of a four-game series against South Bend.

Austin Smith doesn't need to bring a costume. He just needs to get to the mound with the same stuff he had in his last outing. Not to make too big a deal of what Smith did six days ago at Great Lakes, but it was the kind of performance that could indicate major progress.

When Smith was pulled after 6 1/3 innings, the Loons had a big, fat zero in the runs column. They struck out seven times against Fort Wayne's 20-year-old right-hander and managed only three hits. Dating back to last season, it was Smith's 18th start as a TinCap and, by almost any standard, his best. It was the first time he completed six innings and also the first time he fanned seven.

South Bend knows the extent of Smith's potential. He was once a highly ranked prospect. In 2016, the Cubs' hitters batted .161 in 31 at-bats against Smith and had just one RBI in 8 2/3 innings against him. Smith held South Bend to a puny .483 OPS.

Fort Wayne's offense will be up against Bryan Hudson tonight. The left-hander was a third-round choice of the Chicago Cubs in the 2015 amateur draft. He's only 19 years old and didn't have a lot of success last year in the short-season Northwest League. However, the challenge he presents to hitters is the ability to affect their eye level. Like any tall pitcher, the 6-foot-8 Hudson tends to create a downward trajectory on his pitches that makes them more difficult to hit.