Fort Wayne, Indiana — On a sunny and 65-degree evening before Easter, the TinCaps rose to the occasion of sweeping the Peoria Chiefs with a 15-10 victory. Fort Wayne set a season high for runs, as well as hits with 18.
The TinCaps erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the first inning and didn’t stop there. The hunt for hits and runs was most definitely a success. For the second night in a row, all nine TinCaps batters had at least one hit. Six batters had multiple hits. Eight players scored and six had at least one run batted in. The team also established a new season best with eight extra-base hits.
Leadoff batter Mallex Smith led the way with four hits, including two triples and a double, as he finished just a home run short of the cycle. The center fielder scored three runs, drove in three more, and stole his 14th base of the year — second most in all of Minor League Baseball.
But Smith was far from the only TinCap to have a banner day. Left fielder Ronnie Richardson, for example, also shined with three hits, three runs, and four runs batted in. With Fort Wayne (7-8) leading 3-0 in the bottom of the first, Richardson hit a bases-clearing triple that gave the TinCaps a commanding 6-0 lead. That chased Peoria (8-7) starter Chase Brookshire (0-2) from the game before he escaped the first.
Fort Wayne’s offensive explosion came in support of starting pitcher Justin Livengood, who was making his first start as a professional. The 23-year-old right-hander from North Carolina went the first 2 2/3 innings for the TinCaps, surrendering four runs in the top of the third. Cory Bostjancic (1-0) relieved Livengood and got credit for the win with 2 2/3 innings of his own in which he yielded three runs.
To Peoria’s credit, the Chiefs didn’t go away without a battle. Fort Wayne, which upped its lead to 8-0 with a run in the second, saw its lead split in half with Peoria’s four-run third. The TinCaps, though, responded right away with four of their own in the bottom half and added two more in the fourth to lead 14-4.
The Chiefs scored once in the fifth and made things interesting in the sixth when Carson Kelly clobbered a three-run home run off The Harrison building in left field. Peoria cut Fort Wayne’s lead down to 14-9 with a run in the top of the seventh. At one point, the Chiefs had the potential tying run in the hole. However, the TinCaps tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh and withstood a Peoria one-run rally in the eighth to preserve the win.
The TinCaps are off Easter Sunday and then hit the road Monday for the first of four games at Great Lakes. Fort Wayne is scheduled to start Walker Weickel against the Loons’ Jonathan Martinez in a pairing of right-handers. The 6:05 p.m. game can be heard on The Fan 1380.