This TinCaps' homestand has been nothing if not dramatic.
Just three days after Fort Wayne roared back from nine runs down in the biggest comeback win in TinCaps history, it came from behind again, erasing a four-run deficit and beating the heat to even the series with Cedar Rapids at a game apiece.
Jawuan Harris doubled, drove in two runs, scored twice and provided the game-winning ground ball in the ninth inning, bringing Justin Lopez sprinting home from third with the deciding run in an 8-7 victory at Parkview Field on Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 5,063.
“It's good,” manager Anthony Contreras said of the postgame mood in the clubhouse. “Obviously the guys are pretty tired from being out (in the heat) all day, but it's good to hang on and come out on top. ... These guys hung in there. It was good to see those guys rally and do something special.”
The game was tied going to the bottom of the ninth, but the TinCaps (43-54, 10-19 second half) loaded the bases with one out on a single from Lopez, a Luke Becker bunt-single and a Tyler Benson walk.
The bases-full situation caused Cedar Rapids (56-43, 17-12) to bring in one of their outfielders to act as a fifth infielder. The unorthodox ploy worked to perfection when Tucupita Marcano ripped a line drive up the middle but right at the left fielder playing behind second base.
The Kernels looked like they would get out of the jam when Harris – the hero of Wednesday's massive comeback against Peoria – rolled to short. Shortstop Wander Javier got a glove on it, but it glanced off the heel of the mitt and bounced away as Lopez raced across with the winning run and the TinCaps streamed from the dugout to mob Harris as he rounded first.
“That was fun,” said Benson, who went 3 for 3 with a triple, double and two walks. “It's always fun to celebrate a walk-off, throwing water or Gatorade on people, so it's a good time.”
Harris, a 22-year-old outfielder, is in the midst of his best stretch of hitting this season. He has three multi-hit games in the last four and had a huge two-out, two-run double down the left-field line in the fourth inning in addition to his game-winning grounder. He also stole a base, his 21st theft of the year, tying him for third in the league.
“Jawuan's been swinging it well,” Contreras said. “That's one thing we've been looking for him to do is put the ball in play because when he does that he puts pressure on the defense and (errors like the ninth inning) can happen if he starts doing that more often.
“His rhythm and timing look a lot better at the plate; he's not getting too jumpy at pitches.”
Harris' big two-bagger in the fourth was part of a game-turning rally for the TinCaps.
They came to bat trailing 5-1, but pushed across six runs while sending 10 hitters to the plate to take the lead.
In addition to Harris' double, catcher Juan Fernandez laced a line drive into the right-field corner in the fourth with two outs that rattled around and turned into a two-run go-ahead triple, the backstop's second three-bagger of the season.
Gilberto Celestino and Spencer Steer had RBI singles in the sixth for the Kernels to knot the score at 7, setting up Harris' heroics in the ninth.
TinCaps starting pitcher Cullen Dana pitched three innings and gave up three runs on three hits in his Midwest League debut.
vs. Cedar Rapids
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Joey Cantillo (TinCaps) vs. Tyler Palm (Kernels)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM