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06/21/2009 12:43 AM ET
Schmidt pitches TinCaps to title
Former first-rounder helps Fort Wayne capture division crown
Left-hander Nick Schmidt is 4-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 13 appearances this season. (Emily Jones/MiLB.com)

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Perhaps it was appropriate that the Fort Wayne TinCaps beat the South Bend Silver Hawks to clinch the Midwest League first-half East Division title.

After all, their intrastate rivals played a significant role in helping them capture their first division crown since 2003.

Former first-round pick Nick Schmidt tossed five solid innings Saturday as Fort Wayne topped South Bend, 4-1, to complete a doubleheader sweep and improve to 11-0 against the Silver Hawks this season.

"That's unbelievable to go 11-0 against any team," Schmidt said in the midst of a clubhouse celebration at Coveleski Stadium. "That's pretty crazy."

The TinCaps, who boast an astounding 21-0 record against the Silver Hawks and Dayton Dragons, established a franchise record with their 45th win of the first half, which concludes Sunday.

"We have a lot of great players on this team," Schmidt said. "There's not one guy you need to count on. Our lineup is strong 1-9, we have five quality starters and the bullpen has been phenomenal."

TinCaps manager Doug Dascenzo, a former Major League outfielder, concurred.

"Anytime you have a team that's 21 games over .500 you have to feel very, very good about them," he said. "From day one, they've played great baseball. They're 25 guys who love to play the game. They pitch well, hit well and play defense. That's what it takes to put a good stretch together."

After posting a 7-3 win in the completion of a suspended game earlier Saturday, Fort Wayne sent Schmidt (4-0) to the hill in search of the title.

The 23-year-old left-hander did not disappoint, yielding an unearned run on three hits and a walk with five strikeouts to remain unbeaten in 13 appearances, including 10 starts, this season.

"Not only is he a very good pitcher, but he's a tremendous young man and competitor," Dascenzo said. "The guys really do feed off that. We're really happy for him. He's been through a lot the past few months and he's on his way to a very good career."

Selected 23rd overall by the Padres in 2007, Schmidt has given up just one earned run over 31 innings in his last six starts.

"I attribute that to throwing a lot of strikes," he said. "I've been throwing good quality strikes down in the zone, and it takes you a long way."

The University of Arkansas product, who missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, admitted he wasn't aware of what was at stake prior to his latest strong performance.

"I really didn't think about the clinching," Schmidt said. "I kind of forgot about it because we've been winning so much."

Adam Zornes' two-run double in the second staked Schmidt to an early lead. Dan Robertson added an RBI single in the fifth before Blake Tekotte tripled and came home on Terry Hose's balk in the sixth to cap the scoring.

Zachary Herr worked around a walk in a scoreless sixth and Brad Brach struck out the side in the ninth for his 17th save, tying him with Wisconsin's Jim Henderson for the league lead and setting off the TinCaps' celebration.

John Torenli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.