Tough Loss for Hawks in Second Game of Eastern Division Series
A long two-run homerun from third baseman Gabriel Quintana broke a 1-1 deadlock in the top of the eighth inning as the Fort Wayne TinCaps evened up the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship series at a game apiece with a 5-2 victory over the South Bend Silver Hawks on Sunday. Fort Wayne's four-run eighth backed up a dominant outing from starter Colin Rea and forced a deciding Game Three on Monday night at Four Winds Field.
After combining for twelve runs and three errors in Game One in Fort Wayne, the Hawks and TinCaps matched up in a crisp pitchers duel on Sunday evening in South Bend. Rob Coe got the start for South Bend, the Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Coe retired the first two batters he faced before hitting Fort Wayne center fielder Alberth Martinez with a pitch. Coe retired third baseman Gabriel Quintana on a ground ball to third to end the inning.
Rea (W, 1-0) started for Fort Wayne, the Class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and was dominant right from the outset. Rea had Hawks shortstop Andrew Velazquez struck out to start the game, but Velazquez reached first as strike three got past the TinCaps catcher for a wild pitch. Rea was unfazed by the leadoff baserunner as he immediately got right fielder Socrates Brito to hit into an around-the-horn 5-4-3 double play. Rea went on to retire the next seven Hawks hitters, facing the minimum nine batters through the first three innings.
Coe upheld his part of the pitchers duel through the first three innings, keeping the TinCaps scoreless. Fort Wayne threatened to score in the top of the second as left fielder Luis Domoromo walked with one out and first baseman Luis Tejada flared a single to right that put runners on first and second. Coe escaped the jam by getting shortstop Tyler Stubblefield to fly out to right and then striking out catcher Rodney Daal for the third out.
The Hawks put together their first threat of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Velazquez led off with a fly ball single to center. Brito followed with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single through the right side that sent Velazquez around to third with no outs. With the heart of the order coming up, Rea managed to keep the Hawks off the scoreboard. Third baseman Brandon Drury popped out to short for the first out of the inning. First baseman Rudy Flores struck out swinging as Brito stole second on the third strike. With runners at second and third, the TinCaps decided to intentionally walk second baseman Fidel Pena to load the bases. The gambit paid off as Rea struck out designated hitter Roidany Aguila to keep the game scoreless after four.
Fort Wayne mounted a rally in the top of the fifth inning against Coe. After a groundout to shortstop for the first out of the inning, Stubblefield singled up the middle. With Daal at the plate, Stubblefield stole second base. Daal walked to put two men on. Designated hitter Mallex Smith grounded out to first, advancing the runners to second and third with two outs. Coe kept the TinCaps off the board by getting second baseman Reynaldo Bruguera to hit a grounder to first. Flores fielded and tossed to Coe who just beat a sliding Bruguera to the bag for the third out of the inning.
The TinCaps got the breakthrough in the top of the sixth against Coe. After the first two batters were retired, right fielder Hunter Renfroe launched a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall for a solo homer and a 1-0 Fort Wayne lead. The next two batters followed with singles to put runners at first and third but Coe escaped any further damage by getting Stubblefield to foul out to first to end the inning.
South Bend struck back in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game. Much like the top of the inning, the first two batters went down quietly. Drury then tied up the game with a long solo homer to left on a 1-1 pitch from Rea. Rea got out of the inning by getting Flores to fly out to left to end the inning.
Coe's night was over after six innings as Enrique Garcia (L, 0-1) came in from the bullpen to start the seventh inning for the Hawks. Coe threw six innings of one-run ball and allowed five hits and two walks while striking out three TinCaps. Garcia tossed a scoreless seventh inning that was matched by a scoreless seventh from Rea. Then, in the eighth inning, the wheels fell off for the Hawks. Martinez led off with a ground ball single to left. Quintana followed with a bomb to deep left-center that one-hopped the Applebees Fun Zone for a two-run homer and a 3-1 Fort Wayne lead. The TinCaps were not done as Renfroe followed with a triple to deep center, just beating the throw into third with a headfirst slide. Domoromo laced a single into left that scored Renfroe and knocked Garcia out of the game with the scoreboard reading 4-1 in favor of the TinCaps.
Tyler Green replaced Garcia and retired the first batter he faced as first baseman Luis Tejada grounded out to short, advancing Domormo to second with one out. Green then walked Stubblefield and surrendered a bloop single to Daal that loaded the bases. Green got a potential double-play ball from Smith to short but after making the out at second, Pena was unable to pull the trigger on the relay throw, allowing Domoromo to score from third and extending the lead to 5-1. That closed the book on Garcia who gave up four runs in an inning-plus of work. An inning-ending strikeout of Bruguera held the score at 5-1.
Chris Nunn entered the game to start the bottom of the eighth for the TinCaps in relief of Rea. Rea dominated the Hawks throughout the game, allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings of work in a winning effort. Nunn bounced back from a rough outing in Game One to retire the Hawks in order in the eighth. Thomas Brendel replaced Green to pitch the ninth for South Bend and he retired the middle of the TinCaps lineup in order to take the game to the bottom of the ninth at 5-1.
Roman Madrid came on and closed out the game for the TinCaps. The Hawks did get one run back in the bottom of the ninth as Drury tripled down the right field line with one out. Flores grounded out to second, scoring Drury to cut the lead to 5-2 but that was all the Hawks could muster as Pena also grounded out to second to end the game.
The Hawks and TinCaps will meet in the deciding Game Three of the series on Monday night at 7:05pm at Four Winds Field in South Bend. RHP Joe Ross (Playoffs: 1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the ball for Fort Wayne while RHP Aaron Blair (Playoffs: 1-0, 0.00 ERA). It is a winner-take-all game in the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship as the winner of Monday night's game will take on the Western Division Champion for the Midwest League Crown. It is also Belly Buster Monday where you can upgrade your ticket for a wristband that includes unlimited hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn and peanuts during the game. Hawks fans, come on out and fill up Four Winds Field, and your belly, and help push the Hawks into the Championship Series with a win on Monday night.