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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 01, 2018 1:00 am

TinCaps drop home finale to Lake County

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps have three games remaining in their season and must win two of them against the West Michigan Whitecaps in order to make the playoffs. Those are the simple facts after they lost 5-4 to Lake County on Friday in their home finale at Parkview Field, setting up a winner-take-all series with the Whitecaps this weekend.

Fort Wayne had opportunities to pull out a victory Friday after falling behind 4-0 through two innings. They plated three runs in the third inning thanks to Jack Suwinski, who ripped a two-run triple down the right-field line and then scored on a passed ball that barely got away from the catcher, sliding in around the tag to bring Fort Wayne within one.

Will Benson hit a titanic home run for the Captains in the eighth, tying him for the league lead with 20 homers and making it a 5-3 Lake County lead. The TinCaps loaded the bases in the bottom half with one out, but Gabriel Arias struck out on a high fastball and Esteury Ruiz whiffed on a 3-2 slider that would have been ball four. 

"One of the coolest moments was in that eighth inning when we had the bases loaded and that crowd was going crazy," manager Anthony Contreras said. "That's the stuff I want them to feel and understand that if you can produce and you can come through, that's a big step in their career.

"Those two guys have been in big situations all year. ... Even though they didn't come through in that moment, I take the glass-half-full approach and it's like, 'Okay, they got more experience.' A lot of guys don't come through in that situation, but we want them to understand, remember the feeling, remember what the guy was throwing, remember your mental process. If you can learn from it, you can succeed and progress forward."

Even though reliever Thomas Ponticelli eventually struck out Arias and Ruiz and finished four shutout innings to get a win in his first Midwest League appearance, he said the raucous Parkview Field crowd was intimidating.

"It was like nothing I've ever seen before," Ponticelli said. "I came from a smaller college (University of San Francisco), so that was the most fans I've ever played in front of. It was loud, I took my time out there, I stepped off a couple times and they booed me. ... It was great energy, kind of fired me up a little bit."

So the TinCaps missed a chance to draw in front of the Whitecaps, who also lost Friday while committing six errors against Dayton. Now Fort Wayne faces what is essentially a playoff series against the Whitecaps and will start Henry Henry in Game 1 on Saturday.

"We're going to go about our business like we do every single time," Contreras said. "Hopefully these guys come out ready to go tomorrow and we get after it."

dsinn@jg.net