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TinCaps vs. South Bend
Eastern finals
( Silver Hawks win 2-1 )
Game 1: South Bend 7, TinCaps 5
Game 2: TinCaps 5, South Bend 2
Game 3: South Bend 9, TinCaps 5
Robert Franklin | South Bend Tribune
The ball slips by South Bend’s Fidel Pena, left, as Fort Wayne’s Luis Tejada slides into second base safely during Monday’s Game 3 at South Bend.

Poof! TinCaps’ magical run ends

Hot run after uneven season ends in Eastern Division final

Robert Franklin | South Bend Tribune
Fort Wayne’s Rodney Daal tags out South Bend’s Breland Almadova at home during Game 3 of the Eastern Division championship series Monday at Four Winds Field in South Bend.

– The magic fizzled Monday.

Fort Wayne, which was playing some of its best baseball at just the right time, couldn’t do enough in Game 3 of the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship Series.

The TinCaps’ season ended with a 9-5 loss to South Bend at Four Winds Field.

“It’s always tough to lose and knowing that your season is over,” manager Jose Valentin said. “But I’ll tell you what, I feel proud. I feel proud of them. If your guys are gonna go down, it’s got to be the way that we did today.”

Fort Wayne starter Joe Ross cruised into the fifth inning, but a three-run home run from third baseman Brandon Drury on a hanging slider broke a 1-1 tie, and Ross was pulled shortly afterward.

“He’s probably their best hitter by far,” the 20-year-old right-hander said. “He did what he was supposed to do.”

Fort Wayne battled back with four runs in the next two innings, but the team’s well of late-inning heroics ran dry.

The fight was there, though. The spirit the TinCaps showed throughout the playoffs didn’t fade.

Second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum will take that with him into the offseason, as well as all the memories of a stellar first half, the walk-off wins and the rest of 2013 season.

“Tonight was a perfect example, kind of, of what we did all year – we just came up one inning short,” Tissenbaum said. “We get behind, we punch right back. We get right back into games.”

The TinCaps and Silver Hawks played 21 games this season, and Fort Wayne was 6-14 against South Bend entering Monday. But all of those wins came in the second half of the season, and the TinCaps were 4-1 in their past five games against the Silver Hawks.

The most important matchup, the Eastern finals, went to South Bend.

“We got beat by a great team,” Valentin said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They played better than us. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Drury went 2 for 4 and had four RBI. Right fielder Socrates Brito had a big game for the Silver Hawks as well, with two runs, three RBI and four hits in five at-bats.

The TinCaps didn’t have any standout performances but chased starter Aaron Blair after 5 2/3 innings. Blair had six strikeouts, and his relief staff did enough to get the Silver Hawks past the TinCaps.

South Bend tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run triple by Brito. The Silver Hawks move on to face Quad Cities in the Midwest League Championship series, and the TinCaps head into the offseason.

Some will be back. Most won’t. Either way, Valentin sees good things ahead for the 2013 group.

“I think that we got a lot of bright futures and a lot of players here,” the second-year manager said. “If we get a chance again, hopefully those guys, instead of just shaking hands and saying goodbye, they just keep on going.”