TinCaps pitcher Ryan Bergert was as engrossed as anyone as Friday’s game went into extra innings at Parkview Field, and as excited as anyone when teammate Joshua Mears banged a double into right-center to bring home Lucas Dunn for a 1-0 victory over the Lansing Lugnuts in the bottom of the 10th.
It makes sense. Bergert knew the TinCaps had their struggles in low-scoring games – they came into the night 0-18 when scoring three or fewer runs – and had only one shutout. Then Bergert pitched a gem, giving up three hits over seven innings, while striking out eight and walking only one, and no pitcher would want that squandered, right?
“It was definitely exciting and I definitely wanted to get a tally in the win column,” Bergert said. “And there’s nothing better than a walk-off. It was great to watch, very exciting, the fans were into it. It was great to be a part of.”
The 2-hour, 14-minute game made for great theater – Bergert went head-to-head for the first time with former college teammate Jacob Watters – but Bergert didn’t get to enjoy the early portion of the show along with the announced crowd of 6,050.
“It was cool facing him. But honestly, I wish I could have watched more because I was kind of locking in, in the dugout, between innings. But he threw very well and it was fun to go back and forth, put up zeroes next to each other,” Bergert said.
He threw 75 strikes among his 95 pitches.
“There’s nothing like standing in the outfield when the pitcher is throwing strikes,” Mears said. “It was awesome to watch him just cruise through his outing today. Props to him, for sure.”
Watters, who played alongside Bergert at West Virginia University in 2020 and 2021, worked 5 2/3 innings and gave up only one hit, striking out four and walking three. He threw 74 pitches, 41 of them for strikes.
The TinCaps (18-25) have won five of their last six games and are 3-1 in a six-game homestead against the Lugnuts (20-23).
The teams combined for only nine hits – five for Fort Wayne – while using six pitchers. Fort Wayne’s Chris Lincoln worked the 10th for the win, after Keegan Collett allowed one hit and struck out five over two innings.
“I feel like the momentum was on our side the whole time. Our pitching was spectacular. We felt comfortable the whole time,” said Mears, an outfielder, who was 1 for 4. He added that when he came to the plate in the 10th inning against Tyler Baum, he wanted to atone for a failed bunt attempt from his previous at-bat.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to put a ball in play here, do something for the team, at least move the runner to third or something.’ He put something over the plate and I capitalized.”
Each team mustered only one hit apiece through the first five innings – by Fort Wayne’s Marcos Castañon and Lansing’s Clark Elliott – and the TinCaps’ center fielder, Jakob Marsee, was ejected in the bottom of the fifth for something he said to umpire Charlie Welling after he was called out at the end of a close double play.
In the bottom of sixth, TinCaps catcher Juan Zabala was robbed by a diving catch by Lansing’s Brayan Buelvas in center field, though Zabala got some revenge in the top of the seventh by thwarting a Max Muncy steal attempt with no outs.
The TinCaps had a terrific chance to score in the eighth when Dunn and Kervin Pichardo got no-out singles, but the TinCaps couldn’t move them forward and Jackson Merrill, the top-rated prospect in the San Diego Padres’ system, struck out to end the inning.