FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The TinCaps ended the regular season as the hottest team in the Midwest League and they sustained that momentum in their playoff opener at Parkview Field on Wednesday night with a 7-5 win over the West Michigan Whitecaps. Fort Wayne now holds a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Eastern Division Semifinals.
Josh VanMeter broke a 5-5 five in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run single off Luke Putkonen, a 28-year-old Detroit Tigers reliever on a Major League rehab assignment. For VanMeter, it was his second game-winning hit in as many games. The 19-year-old from Ossian, Ind. hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the TinCaps on Monday in a 4-0 win over Bowling Green in their regular season finale to clinch the Eastern Division’s second-half wild card. The Summit City squad won six of its final seven to secure their sixth postseason appearance in as many years.
Fort Wayne’s win came despite trailing 5-2 midway through the game. Midwest League MVP Wynton Bernard hit a three-run homer for West Michigan — the first-half division champs — in the top of the fifth inning. It was the Whitecaps’ second longball of the frame against TinCaps starter Jimmi Brasoban after Domingo Leyba hit one that tied the game, 2-2.
Dustin Peterson had given Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run double. Peterson, like VanMeter, had three hits on the night. It was Peterson’s first three-hit game since July 1. The TinCaps as a team had 13 hits against a West Michigan staff that led the league in most pitching categories during the regular season.
Fort Wayne tagged nine of its hits and five of its runs against Midwest League All-Star Austin Kubitza. The 22-year-old right-hander never allowed nine hits in any of his 23 regular season starts. After falling behind 5-2, the TinCaps scored twice in the fifth and once in the sixth to even the game. Fernando Perez and Nick Schulz both provided RBI singles following an unearned run.
Not to be lost in a superb team performance, TinCaps relievers Nick Mutz, Jason Jester, and Ryan Butler combined to throw 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief and allowed only two base runners. Brasoban threw three scoreless innings before conceding a run in the fourth and then the two homers in the fifth. Jester received credit for the win, while Butler recorded the save.
Game 2 of the series is set for 7:00 p.m. Thursday at West Michigan. With a win, Fort Wayne advances to the Eastern Division Championship Series against either South Bend or Lake County. Thursday’s game can be heard on ESPN Radio 1380, TinCaps.com, and the TuneIn Radio app.