The TinCaps’ struggles began when West Michigan hit the second pitch of the game for a single, and the Whitecaps hit four RBI singles in the first inning of their 12-9 romp Friday night at Parkview Field.
West Michigan led 11-1 midway through the game before giving up six runs in the ninth to make the final score close.
Cody Hebner, who came in with a 3.24 ERA, endured his worst start of the season, getting charged with seven runs on eight hits while getting only three outs.
The Whitecaps (81-56, 40-27 second half) extended their lead to 8-0 with a four-run second, and then scored one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
The TinCaps (60-76, 30-37) failed in their bid for a three-game sweep and head to Bowling Green to play the final three games of the regular season. Their playoff hopes took a minor hit, with their loss combined with a win by Great Lakes (30-36 second half). Key results elsewhere involving Dayton (30-36 second half) and Bowling Green (29-36) had not gone final by the time the final out was recorded at Parkview Field.
The TinCaps’ final home game of the regular season was their 25th sellout. An announced crowd of 7,805 pushed the TinCaps to a new franchise record for attendance in a season.
TinCaps catcher John Nester was ejected in the top of the ninth by plate umpire Patrick Sharhsel.
Fort Wayne scored on an RBI double by Dustin Peterson in the second, an RBI single by Ronnie Richardson in the fifth and a sacrifice fly by Trea Turner in the seventh.
They then made things fairly interesting in the ninth, getting an RBI single by Franmil Reyes, a two-run double by Jake Bauers and an RBI single by Nick Schulz to pull within 12-7.
Then Ryan Miller, who entered the game in place of Nester, hit a two-out, two-run home run, which prompted a pitching change.
Whitecaps righty Nate Fury allowed a single to Henry Charles before Josh VanMeter was retired on a comebacker with the tying run in the on-deck circle.
Richardson, an outfielder, pitched for the fifth time this year and gave up a run in the ninth on a wild pitch.