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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 2:10 pm

TinCaps beat Loons, 7-2: Quick thoughts

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

How it Happened

Both pitchers were sharp to open the game, especially Great Lakes' slightly built right-hander, Edwin Uceta. The Loons (2-8) hurler gave up only an infield single and a walk, with no hard contact in the first three innings. The TinCaps had an opportunity to score in that third frame, when Jack Suwinski reached second following a walk and a wild pitch, but a strikeout and a groundout helped Uceta escape.

TinCaps starter Aaron Leasher was similarly solid early, walking two, but also striking out three in the first three innings. He sat in the low 90s with his fastball and threw a couple of really good breaking pitches to get strikeouts. Another cold day likely aided the pitching-friendly atmosphere, but after three frames that took barely 50 minutes, the game was still scoreless.

The pitchers' duel continued during the next several innings, with Leasher seeming to get stronger as the game went along. He allowed a two-out single in the fourth, but set down seven in a row after that, striking out three of them to get through the sixth inning. After he got his final out in the sixth, he became the first TinCap to throw six frames in a game this season. 

Meanwhile, Uceta continued to shut down the Fort Wayne (4-9) offense.He set down the side in order in the fourth and then struck out two after a leadoff single in the fifth. He exited after five shutout innings, getting a hard-luck no-decision in a dominant outing.

With Uceta out of the game, the Fort Wayne offense finally broke through. Reliever Anuerys Zabala walked both Gabriel Arias and Tirso Ornelas and the TinCaps took advantage of free passes for the second straight day. With Luis Campusano at the plate, manager Anthony Contreras put the runners in motion and Campusano responded with a bouncing ball through the right side. The perfectly executed hit-and-run brought in the first run of the game and Juan Fernandez followed with a ground ball that drove in another. Fernandez's grounder might have been a double play, but the catcher hustled down the line and beat the throw, clapping his hands after he heard the umpire's call. When the inning ended, the TinCaps had taken a 2-0 lead with only one hit. 

The pattern repeated in the following inning, as Fort Wayne again built a rally on Great Lakes walks. Zabala struggled in the inning, hitting Carlos Belen and then walking Jack Suwinski and Tre Carter to load the bases. After that, the TinCaps' bats came alive. Gabriel Arias singled to right to make it 3-0 and Luis Campusano followed with a soft single to right that barely snuck over the glove of Zach McKinstry at second base. Campusano's hit drove in two and was followed by RBI hits from Juan Fernandez and Justin Lopez. When the inning finally ended, Fort Wayne had scored five runs to go in front 7-0 without an extra-base hit.

Player of the Game: Aaron Leasher

The left-hander put together arguably the best start by a TinCap this season, throwing six innings without allowing any runs. He was dominant at times, striking out seven and retiring the final seven hitters he faced. Leasher threw 81 pitches in the outing, working quickly, and tossed 46 strikes. Crucially, he only walked two hitters, both in the first two innings, after walking six in the first 8 1/3 frames he threw this season. He deserved a win and the TinCaps gave it to him with the two-run bottom of the sixth.

Facts and Figures

The loss is Great Lakes' sixth in a row following a 2-2 start. The Loons haven't won since April 8 against Lansing. ... Former North Side star Zach McKinstry started at second base and hit second in the order, going 0 for 2  with two walks. His OBP remains above .540 for the season. ... The TinCaps walked just two hitters, after averaging only 1.8 walks per game over the last four contests. Fort Wayne also struck out nine Loons hitters, giving it 25 punchouts in two games this series. ... Uceta pitched five shutout frames, allowing just two hits and striking out five. He walked one and needed just 69 pitches to get through his outing. His season ERA is now 2.00. ... Game-time temperature was 35 degrees. The announced attendance was a season-high 6,584. ... The TinCaps sent 10 hitters to the plate in the seventh inning. ... Zabala pitched 1 1/3 innings, walking four and allowing six runs. ... Campusano went 2 for 4 with three RBI, giving him seven total knocked in this season. ... Suwinski walked three times, the second straight game Fort Wayne has had a player with a trio of walks. ... Great Lakes scored two runs in the ninth, with Ramon Rodriguez and Moises Perez picking up RBIs from the Nos. 8 and 9 spots in the order.

What's Next?

These two teams will meet again tomorrow night at Parkview Field for the series finale. First pitch for the matchup will be at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Mason Thompson (1-1, 4.50 ERA) will start for Fort Wayne after pitching 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in his start last Friday against Bowling Green. Right-hander Jesus Vargas (0-0, 3.00) will get his second start for the Loons. 

dsinn@jg.net