The High-A Central Pitcher of the Month for May continued his run of dominance into June.
TinCaps left-hander Ethan Elliott worked six solid innings, extended his league-leading strikeout total to 47 with nine whiffs Thursday and earned the victory as Fort Wayne defeated Cedar Rapids for the second straight night at Parkview Field, 8-6 in front of a season-best announced crowd of 3,266.
“Pretty much what we've seen all year, filling up the strike zone and getting quick outs,” manager Anthony Contreras said of Elliott. “He's a true pro, he gets in there and competes and does what he needs to do every day.”
Elliott earned his second career victory – both coming since May 28 – after giving up two runs on four hits and walking one. He pitched quickly, keeping the Kernels (11-16) off balance with his pace, and featured his changeup heavily because his fastball command was not quite as sharp as he would have liked.
He left two fastballs over the heart of the plate that turned into solo home runs for Seth Gray in the fourth and Michael Helman in the sixth, but he also faced the minimum through three innings, matching right-hander Anderson Espinoza's feat from Wednesday.
“That's how it is, if someone throws really well, you don't want to be the guy to bring down the pack,” Elliott said of following Espinoza's lights-out start. “When a lot of guys are grooving and rolling, then it makes pitching a whole lot easier and the confidence is through the roof for everybody.”
The game was tied at 1 entering the fourth inning, but the TinCaps (12-14) pushed across six runs with the aid of only one hard-hit ball and a parade of miscues from the Kernels.
Two TinCaps reached on errors in the frame – the Kernels committed four errors in the game – and Grant Little and Yorman Rodriguez each got hit by pitches from 6-foot-9 Cedar Rapids pitcher Tyler Palm. Jonny Homza squeezed a broken-bat single through a drawn-in infield to drive in two and Kelvin Alarcon added a two-run triple to right-center that popped out of the glove of Helman as he made a leaping grab for the ball.
Homza went 2 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
The TinCaps led 8-2 going into the ninth inning, but the first three Kernels hitters reached against reliever Cody Tyler and Leobaldo Cabrera followed with a grand slam to left-center that added a healthy dose of drama to the end of the game.
Right-hander Sam Keating, who gave up a game-winning three-run homer in the ninth inning Tuesday, relieved Tyler after the grand slam and retired all three hitters he faced, including a strikeout to end the game. He earned the second save of his career.
“That's huge for his confidence,” Contreras said of Keating, who switched to a side-arm delivery this season. “With the new arm slot, the new delivery, the only way you can create confidence is feeling your way through it as much as you can. He's starting to get into compete mode.”
TinCaps vs. Cedar Rapids
When: 7:05 p.m.
Where: Parkview Field
Pitchers: Matt Waldron (TinCaps) vs. Jon Olsen (Kernels)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM