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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette TinCaps second baseman Ripken Reyes had two hits in his first Midwest League game Saturday, a 3-2 Fort Wayne win over Bowling Green. Reyes was promoted from the Arizona Rookie League earlier in the day.  

Saturday, August 17, 2019 11:50 pm

TinCaps erase bad loss; Fox and Skender shine

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps are just a different team at Parkview Field. In the second half of this season Fort Wayne is 14-12 at home and 9-19 on the road. After suffering easily their worst loss of the season in Lansing on Friday, the TinCaps returned to the friendly confines in the Summit City and played a terrific bounce-back game, taking the series-opener against first-place Bowling Green, 3-2.

Fort Wayne is seven games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division with 16 games remaining, meaning it is the longest of longshots to make the postseason. Still, with games remaining against the Hot Rods and the South Bend Cubs, the TinCaps will be a factor in this playoff race one way or another. 

They helped close the gap between first-place Bowling Green and second-place Great Lakes to just a single game with their win tonight. The victory came in large part because of designated hitter Ethan Skender, who remains the feel-good story of the season in Fort Wayne. After sitting out for nearly three full seasons because of injuries, Skender has returned and is hitting .342 in his first pro campaign, including a .320 average with the TinCaps. He walked and homered tonight and the long ball was his fifth overall this season, a bomb to left-center that put Fort Wayne in front early.

"I was seeing the ball good," Skender said of his home run. "(Bowling Green starter Easton McGee) threw a few really good pitches that I laid off of that were out of the zone. I was just ready for that 3-1 pitch, fastball right over the plate and I was just able to get a pitch to hit and I got a hold of it."

Skender hit the homer – and later drew the game-winning walk – in front of his dad and a group of friends who were in attendance at the game. He pointed to their seats as he completed his trip around the bases following the home run.

"That was a really cool moment for them to be able to be here," Skender said. "It was pretty awesome."

The Fort Wayne bullpen was outstanding in this game, as well. Dylan Coleman, Franklin Van Gurp and Mason Fox combined to record the final 11 outs via strikeout. Fox in particular has been off-the-charts good since he arrived in Fort Wayne from short-season Tri-City. The Gardner-Webb product has faced 23 batters in five appearances with the TinCaps. Of those 23, 16 have gone down on strikes, none have walked and just two have gotten hits. Tonight was Fox's best outing yet: two perfect innings, six strikeouts. 

"I feel good," Fox said. "My stuff right now, it's playing pretty good. I've just gotta stick to my routine every day and see how it (goes) from there."

Fox is only a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and a curveball, but the fastball seems to have an unusually high spin rate and the curveball is late-breaking and sharp. When he's throwing them for strikes, he's nearly unhittable. It's been fun to watch Fox, who played mostly outfield in college, turn in the best stretch in his short career on the mound.

Tonight was a huge win for the TinCaps' psyche after their brutal 19-1 loss to Lansing on Friday. It helped that there was a sellout crowd at Parkview Field and the fans were loud throughout the game. When Skender was up with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, the stadium got as loud as I've heard it all season. Did that contribute to Skender drawing the go-ahead walk? Who knows, but it couldn't have hurt.

"It's nuts," Skender said of the atmosphere. "Especially when (the scoreboard) starts saying, 'Get loud' on the screen, you're up at the plate, your nerves are shaking. But I know it's support, so it's pretty awesome, everyone here is just so supportive and the fanbase as a whole is just unbelievable."

It's home, sweet home for the TinCaps.

dsinn@jg.net