Fort Wayne, IN - The Fort Wayne TinCaps beat the Bowling Green Hot Rods, 9-5, Thursday night at Parkview Field to sweep their Midwest League Quarterfinals series, 2-0. With the victory, Fort Wayne advanced to the Eastern Division Championship for the sixth time in the franchise's 21-year history, and fourth time in the last five years.
Though the Hot Rods scored the game's first run, the TinCaps scored nine unanswered runs from the second through fifth innings. Fort Wayne (2-0) went 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position on the way to collecting 14 hits. Each batter in the lineup had at least one hit, while seven drove in runs. Meanwhile, starting pitcher Zach Eflin (1-0) yielded only five hits and two earned runs in six strong innings.
"I can't say I'm surprised," TinCaps manager José Valentín said. "I've got all my confidence in my team. It's about going out there and executing and playing hard like we just did in this series."
After Patrick Leonard gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning with a single to score Tyler Goeddel, the TinCaps answered in the home second against Reinaldo Lopez (0-1). Hunter Renfroe provided an RBI double to plate Gabriel Quintana to tie the contest, 1-1. Three batters later, Tyler Stubblefield brought Renfroe home with a run-scoring single, and the Summit City squad never looked back.
Fort Wayne fortified its lead with two more runs in the third inning, one in the fourth, and an eruption of four in the fifth. Leading 5-1 in the fifth inning, Luis Tejada smacked a two-run double to left field to increase the TinCaps' lead to 7-1. Later in the frame, Rodney Daal launched a two-run shot to the Home Run Porch in left field that served as an exclamation point on a 9-1 advantage.
With his offense racking up runs, Eflin struck out five and retired as many as nine consecutive batters from the third through sixth innings. Bowling Green (0-2) mounted something of a rally with two runs against the 19-year-old in the sixth and then a pair of runs against Fort Wayne's bullpen, but the Hot Rods never brought the tying run to the plate.
"He's been our workhorse in the second half," Valentín said of Eflin. "He's not overpowering anybody, but he knows how to pitch."
The TinCaps next take on their in-state rival, the South Bend Silver Hawks, in the best-of-three East Division Finals beginning at Parkview Field Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Max Fried is Fort Wayne's probable starter against South Bend's Blake Perry. Following a crowd of 4,377 on Thursday, the TinCaps are just 72 fans shy of breaking their single-season attendance record of 408,044, which was set in 2012. Saturday night's game can be seen on XFINITY Channel 81 and heard on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.