The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 12, 2021 12:30 pm

Pregame: TinCaps (53-60) vs. Lansing (54-59)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

It's here, the final day.

The TinCaps play the last of their 60 2021 home games this afternoon at Parkview Field, hoping to build on Saturday's 9-7 win and split the series with the Lansing Lugnuts. A victory for Fort Wayne today would draw the TinCaps even with Lansing for fifth place in the six-team High-A Central East Division with six regular-season games remaining. It would also give Fort Wayne a fifth straight series split at home to close the season. In their first nine home series of the season, the TinCaps have won one, split seven and lost one. 

The final home game of the regular season comes after Fort Wayne put together a terrific offensive performance in the penultimate game. The TinCaps pounded 15 hits, including four for recent Low-A Lake Elsinore call-up Angel Solarte, and exploded for six runs in the fourth inning to bounce back from a shutout loss Friday night. Top prospect Robert Hassell III continued to rake with a three-run homer, his fourth since his call-up to Fort Wayne in late August and first at Parkview Field.

The TinCaps have not yet announced who their starting pitcher will be for the final home matchup of the season. It could be Connor Lehmann, who was originally scheduled to work Tuesday, but had his start pushed back to Wednesday's doubleheader because of rain. He would be on short rest, however, so Fort Wayne might go with a bullpen game and have Edwuin Bencomo or Felix Minjarez start. The doubleheader shifted the rotation somewhat and the TinCaps are still working on getting back on track.

The Lugnuts will counter with 6-foot-7, 22-year-old right-hander Kyle Virbitsky, who is in his first season of pro baseball. The former Penn State hurler is on a fairly limited workload after pitching a full season with the Nittany Lions in the spring and he likely won't go much beyond 3-4 innings today. Virbitsky is coming off a relief appearance Wednesday when he pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out five of the 11 hitters he faced. The TinCaps will try to solve him today and will have to be patient once again: Virbitsky walked two in that last outing against Fort Wayne, but his fastball is good and he hasn't made many big mistakes so far in the pros. The big right-hander has not surrendered a home run in five appearances (two starts) covering 11 2/3 innings.

The TinCaps picked a beautiful day for their final home game, an unseasonably warm September afternoon with not a hint of cloud in the sky. It's one more chance for Fort Wayne fans to see their team play before the stadium returns to being only a jogging track and event center for a while.

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