FORT WAYNE – On another cold afternoon at Parkview Field, the TinCaps’ hands rang after every clack of the ball against their bats.
That didn’t stop them from swinging – and connecting, to the tune of a season-high 21 hits in a 17-8 win against the Lansing Lugnuts on Saturday.
Fort Wayne (8-6) started in a 4-0 hole but worked back into the game on timely hitting from the top of the lineup and a home run from Dane Phillips. By the sixth inning, that four-run deficit had become a two-run lead, and relief pitcher Ruben Mejia had shut the door on the Lansing (4-8) offense.
Then, the TinCaps blew the game – and some bats – open.
Phillips nearly went for the cycle with a homer, triple and two singles. He, like a couple other TinCaps, broke a bat on another unseasonably frigid day in Fort Wayne.
So far, we’ve swung the bat really well, Phillips said. We’ve had really good approaches at the plate.
The last man in the lineup put a good outing together at the plate, too. Shortstop Stephen Carmon, who was batting .243 entering the game, went 3 for 4 and scored four times.
Everybody’s hitting, it just gives you more confidence to go up there, Carmon said. Even though we were down 4-0, I didn’t feel like we really were down. Everybody had good energy, and nobody got down. We just kept fighting.
And the bats – like one of Carmon’s – kept breaking. He has certainly taken notice of the nippy weather.
I think I’ve broken like 10 bats in three days, he said. It’s different. I’m from South Carolina, so I’m not used to this, but if you square it up, it’s going to go just as far.
The TinCaps squared up quite a few Saturday. The season-high 21 hits also tied for the second-most in franchise history, and the 17 runs plated were the most by the club in nearly a decade.
Fort Wayne put together six extra-base hits, and in the seventh and eighth innings, the TinCaps batted around the order. Ten runs and 11 hits came in those two bottom halves in front of a crowd of 4,006.
I think the guys were playing patient, manager Jose Valentin said. You just got to chip it away. The guys never backed down.
It’s just the latest stanza in a recent tear by the TinCaps, who had 15 hits and seven runs in a win Friday. The team forced five Lugnuts to take the mound Saturday, all of whom gave up at least two earned runs.
Mejia (1-1) had seven-straight strikeouts from the last two outs of the fifth inning to the first two of the seventh.
Mejia gave us a chance to come back, Valentin said. The way we’ve been swinging, they’ve got confidence. They know that, sooner or later, we’re going to make the push and come back. We were hoping that the bullpen could keep it close and give us a chance to come back.
That’s what happened today.