In 13 seasons in the Majors, Lansing manager Mike Redmond could not remember seeing a team's season end the way Fort Wayne's campaign ended Monday. He'll take it just the same.
Michael Crouse drew a game-winning bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Lugnuts an 8-7 victory and a series sweep of Fort Wayne. The Blue Jays' Class A affiliate advances to the Midwest League Championship Series.
"All year, they have come to compete every single day," Redmond said. "They've learned a lot, and all of them have improved. I told them this is bonus baseball. None of them has been in the playoffs before, so I'm very happy to get them to feel the satisfaction after a big win. It's been a great experience, seeing them work together as a team. That's what it's all about."
After the TinCaps jumped out to a 2-0 lead with single runs in the second and third innings, Oliver Dominguez's three-run homer highlighted a five-run fourth for Lansing.
The Lugnuts added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Round 1 hero Matt Nuzzo. Fort Wayne scored three times in the seventh and tied the game in the eighth on an RBI fielder's choice by B.J. Guinn. Lansing retook the lead in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by K.C. Hobson.
Down to their last three outs, the TinCaps evened up the game again. Rico Noel tripled on Daniel Webb's first pitch and scored on a single by Cory Spangenberg.
In the ninth, Kevin Quackenbush surrendered a double to Dominguez, who was sacrificed to third by Jonathan Jones. After Peter Mooney walked, Quackenbush issued a pass to Jake Marisnick to load the bases. Michael Crouse then drew a bases-loaded pass on a 3-2 count to force in the winning run.
"You have to give Crouse credit," said Redmond. "He laid off a couple tough pitches. He had a great at-bat."
Carlos Perez tripled twice and scored three times, and Nuzzo went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run. He is 8-for-16 with six RBIs in his team's five playoff games.
Nuzzo's walk-off home run against Dayton in the previous round sparked a winning streak -- the Lugnuts have won four playoff games in a row, including three by a single run.
"We were down to our last strike," said Redmond. "Nuzzo hit a two-run homer to win the game for us. Sometimes it's one big at-bat or play that puts you over the top. It's been a heck of a ride."
Lansing will play Quad Cities in the Midwest League Finals beginning Wednesday.
"We needed a day off because the bad weather in Dayton set us back a day," said Redmond. "This will allow our guys to regroup a bit."