FORT WAYNE, Ind. — One year ago to the day, Adoflo Reina was in Fort Wayne — on the road as a member of the West Michigan Whitecaps. On Saturday night, Reina found himself back at Parkview Field. But this time, in a TinCaps uniform, and playing against his former team for the first time. As fate would have it, Reina was the batter for the TinCaps in the bottom of the 10th inning in a 6-6 game with a runner at third base. Reina didn’t just drive in the winning run, he plated himself as well with a home run to left-center field off Scott Sitz to lift the TinCaps to a scintillating come-from-behind, 8-6 win in front of a sell-out crowd of 8,136 fans.
Reina’s home run was his first in 124 games. The catcher from Venezuela hadn’t hit a longball since August 25, 2012 when he was a member of the Detroit Tigers’ Advanced-A affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers. As superfluous as it may have been with Smith’s run all that mattered, Reina was mobbed at home plate by his TinCaps teammates, who celebrated the team’s fourth walk-off win of the season and fourth consecutive victory at home. The TinCaps are now 9-1 at Parkview Field in May and have won eight of their last 10 overall.
A couple hours before Fort Wayne’s jubilation, a win seemed quite unlikely. The TinCaps fell behind 5-0 against Whitecaps starter Austin Kubitza, who entered the night tied for the Midwest League lead in wins with five. West Michigan (31-25) used four singles and a sacrifice fly to score the game’s first three runs in the top of the third inning against Fort Wayne (25-30) starter Kyle Lloyd. Then, two TinCap errors in the fourth brought home two more Whitecap runs to put the home team in a hole. Making matters seemingly more difficult, Fort Wayne, which lost Friday, 9-6, at Bowling Green, had to bus back through the night, not arriving home until approximately 5:30 a.m.
But for the second time in four games, the TinCaps showed resiliency in overcoming a five-run deficit to win. The comeback began in the bottom of the fourth when Ryan Miller drew a bases loaded walk to put Fort Wayne on the board. An unearned run in the fifth and another unearned run in the sixth brought the TinCaps within a pair at 5-3.
After West Michigan upped its lead to 6-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Fort Wayne still would not go away. Jake Bauers drove home a run with a double in the eighth, while Henry Charles singled Bauers home to trim the Whitecaps’ lead to 6-5. A Dustin Peterson home run that hugged the left-field foul pole in the bottom of the ninth inning tied the game, 6-6.
Reina’s big moment was preceded by a leadoff walk by Bauers, who was pinch-run for by baseball’s stolen base leader Mallex Smith. The speedster lived up to his reputation with a steal of second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Miller.
Tayron Guerrero (4-0) received the win out of the bullpen with 1/3 of an inning of work. It was key, though, as he stranded two runners he inherited from Nick Mutz, who pitched 1 2/3 innings. Justin Livengood tossed three innings following Lloyd, who was charged with three earned runs in five innings while he struck out six.
The TinCaps aim for their fifth consecutive home win on Sunday at Parkview Field at 3:05 p.m. against the Whitecaps. Left-hander Payton Baskette is scheduled to start for Fort Wayne against West Michigan’s Jon Maciel.