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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
TinCap Alberth Martinez braces against the wall to make a catch in the second inning of the 5-4 win over Lake County on Sunday.

Catcher shows mettle; TinCaps take series

Fort Wayne catcher Rodney Daal made a huge play at the plate defensively in the top of the eighth to save a run.

He made a big one in the home half to get one, too.

The TinCaps catcher held onto the ball through a collision at the plate with Lake County’s Logan Vick and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the go-ahead run as Fort Wayne (6-4) earned a 5-4 win against Lake County (2-7) to take its first home series.

The first half of his heroism hurt, too. Daal had a limp after the game and was favoring his left leg.

“That’s a strawberry right there,” he said with a chuckle.

Manager Jose Valentin loved his catcher’s fearlessness on the bang-bang play. That hard-earned bruise might have saved the game for the TinCaps.

“I think that was the biggest key to why we win,” Valentin said. “If we don’t make that play, they could go ahead there, and who knows what’s gonna happen? Not only that, but then he came in in the bottom of the eighth with a man on third to be able to get the sac fly to win the game.

“He’s the hero. He’s the hero today.”

The TinCaps were in trouble early after starter Zach Eflin gave up two consecutive walks and a two-run single two batters later. Eflin went on to get 13 of the next 14 batters out, though, and allowed Fort Wayne to work its way back within one.

The bats were working early for the TinCaps, who racked up 10 hits in the win, but Fort Wayne couldn’t capitalize with runners in scoring position throughout most of the game. In the final three innings, Valentin said, the team finally clicked in crucial situations.

“We didn’t get the hits when we had to in clutch situations,” he said. “I think we win today because we got two situations: We put down a bunt and then we got him in with the sac fly.”

Reliever Matthew Shepherd earned the win, and Roman Madrid came in for a 1-2-3 ninth and his second save of the season.

At the plate, Brian Adams went 3 for 4 and hit two of the TinCaps’ five doubles. His second extra-base hit came at the bottom of the eighth and set up the game-winning situational hits by Alberth Martinez and Daal.

“For Rodney Daal to make a play like that, that’s just unbelievable,” Adams said. “And obviously, when a guy makes a big-time play like that, your job is to come in as a leadoff batter and get on base. He threw me a curve ball and I hit it up the middle.”

Daal, himself soft-spoken about the late-inning heroics, admitted he was hurting – in a good way.

Much like the rest of the TinCaps, the 5-foot-11 catcher was energized by the blast he took at the plate.

“I felt great, actually,” he said. “The adrenaline went up, and the game sped up for me, too. I was like, ‘We gotta win this, we gotta win this.’

“We just kept fighting and kept fighting. Obviously, it came out the good way.”