The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 26, 2021 1:00 am

Big 1st inning helps Dragons top TinCaps

Center fielder's misplay results in 2-run double

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

A defensive miscue cost the TinCaps for a second straight game, and Fort Wayne ended its series against Dayton with a disappointing split after winning three of the first four games.

The TinCaps dropped the series finale Sunday at Parkview Field 5-3 in front of an announced crowd of 4,322 despite a home run from newcomer Zack Mathis.

The defeat meant that the TinCaps (33-39) still have not won a series at Parkview Field since May 4-9, the opening set of the season, against West Michigan. Still, manager Anthony Contreras was relatively pleased with the way his team played against the Dragons.

“The wins (on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) are going to have to propel us against Lansing and Great Lakes,” Contreras said of Fort Wayne's upcoming 12-games-in-13-days trip against two of the teams ahead of the TincCaps in the High-A Central East Division standings. 

The TinCaps fell behind early Sunday. With two on and two out, Dayton's Victor Ruiz hit a sharp line drive just to the right of straightaway center. TinCaps center fielder Agustin Ruiz, who usually plays a corner outfield spot, misplayed the ball, taking a step in before realizing it was over his head. By then, it was too late to recover and the ball bounced off the wall for a two-run double. Alex McGarry followed with another double, and Dayton led 3-0 before Fort Wayne had its first at-bat.

The TinCaps also had a miscue in center Saturday, when Reinaldo Ilarraza, who has played mostly infield in his career before this season, lost a ball in the lights and it turned into a triple. Fort Wayne's best defensive center fielder, Jawuan Harris, was released by the Padres after Friday's game.

Fort Wayne got a run back in the bottom of the first when Justin Lopez muscled a single barely fair inside the right-field line to score Agustin Ruiz from second. The ball was so close to the line that Lopez initially thought it was foul, turning back to the plate before whirling back around as umpire Ben Engstrand signaled it fair.

In the seventh, with the TinCaps down 5-1, Mathis, playing in his first game with Fort Wayne, belted a 3-2 pitch 357 feet to right that landed on the yellow line at the very top of the 15-foot wall for a two-run homer. It was Mathis' third home run of the season after he hit two in 34 games at Low-A Lake Elsinore.

“I was just trying to get on time, put a good swing on it, get the barrel on it,” the 5-foot-8 Mathis said. “I'm really not trying to hit homers or anything, just trying to make a nice, smooth swing up the middle, and I caught it good.”

Mathis came up again with two on and two out in the eighth inning and took a big cut on a 1-1 pitch, and foul-tipped it. He eventually struck out on a borderline fastball on the outside corner.

“It might have looked like it,” Mathis said, when asked if he was trying to hit a second long ball with the big swing. “But if I'd hit it, it would've looked nice and easy and smooth.”

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