The fireworks were supposed to be set off following the Fort Wayne TinCaps game Thursday against Lansing at Parkview Field. Instead the explosions - at least offensively by the TinCaps hitters - lit up a record-setting crowd in the second and third innings. When the damage was done, Fort Wayne had closed out its four-game series with the Lugnuts with a 12-6 doubling up of their Midwest League opponent.
The victory, which kept Fort Wayne atop professional baseball as the winningest team at any level, came in front of 8,572 fans, the largest crowd in the short history of Parkview Field.
“(The crowd size) is really a tribute to (TinCaps president) Mike Nutter and his staff and the job that they've done to market everything,” Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. “Obviously, the fans love baseball here.”
The game was sold out early Thursday afternoon, which was the fifth time in the recent 10-game homestand that the team has drawn a capacity crowd.
Lansing (42-66, 16-23 second half) opened the scoring with a run in the second inning off Caps starter Mike Watt. However, Fort Wayne (76-34, 31-9 second half) quickly snuffed out any hopes the Lugnuts would have of winning, as it put up six runs in its half of the inning on five hits.
Cole Figueroa (2-3, two RBIs, one run) opened the production with a single and eventually scored, tying the game at one, when Kevin Hansen drove him home with the first of his three hits on the night.
“(Kevin's) been working hard,” Dascenzo said. “He doesn't get to play every day, but he's always ready to play and he had a great day today.”
Yefri Carvajal (1-4, two runs) drew a walk in the second and advanced to second on a catcher interference call made while Adam Zornes (1-3, three runs, one RBI) was at the plate. He then scored on a single by Drew Cumberland (2-5, two RBIs, three runs), which made the score 2-1.
With Zornes at third, Hansen at second and Cumberland at first, Daniel Robertson (2-3, two RBIs, one run) drew a walk to bring home Zornes for a 3-1 Caps lead. That was followed by Jaff Decker (2-3, two RBIs) outrunning the pitcher to first base, who was trying to cover for the first baseman, who had fielded Decker's hit, and scoring Hansen for a 4-1 Fort Wayne advantage.
Batting for the second time in the inning, Figueroa hit his second single, which scored Cumberland (5-1 Fort Wayne margin), but the throw to first base by the Lansing fielder sailed into the TinCaps dugout, nearly drilling Blake Tekotte in the head. The error allowed Robertson to score for a 6-1 Caps lead.
In the third, again Fort Wayne was pounding Lansing pitching. The Lugnuts threw five pitchers on the night, with starter Henderson Alvarez (1 2/3 innings, five hits, five earned runs, three strikeouts) taking the loss. Alvarez is 8-6 with a 3.68 ERA on the season.
Carvajal started the hitting in the third with a single to shallow center field. He eventually scored (7-1 Fort Wayne lead) on yet another Lugnuts miscue (Lansing had three errors in the game). Zornes notched a one-bagger, which was followed by Hansen also reaching base, this time when he drove an 0-2 pitch into left field for a single.
“I just went up (to the plate) trying to be aggressive,” Hansen said. “I was trying to take advantage of a pitch in my zone whenever I could get it.”
Hansen and Zornes came home on a Lansing error for a 9-1 lead, which was built upon when Cumberland, who had reached base on a walk, later scored to stretch the lead to 10-1.
Lansing added a run in its half of the fifth, but Watt (six innings, two earned runs, six strikeouts) was stellar in the sixth inning, which was his final inning of work on the night, as he got the Lugnuts out in order.
Watt (6-2, 3.79 ERA) earned his first victory since July 10.
Fort Wayne added a pair of runs in the sixth for a 12-2 lead, and Lansing scored four times in the eighth for the final margin.