FORT WAYNE – The Midwest League Eastern Division opening-round series between Fort Wayne and Lansing is a matchup of the TinCaps’ speed against the Lugnuts’ power.
Fort Wayne showcased that speed, and also flexed some muscle, in a 5-2 victory in Game 1 in front of 1,874 fans Wednesday at Parkview Field.
Travis Jankowski had two hits and two RBI. Tyler Stubblefield had three hits, including a solo home run, as Fort Wayne won the opener of the best-of-three series.
Game 2 is today in Lansing, Mich.
It’s always good to throw the first punch and get the first win, especially against a guy like (Lansing starting pitcher Noah) Syndergaard, Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin said.
Syndergaard had not surrendered a run all year against Fort Wayne, a stretch of 16 innings. He lasted four innings Wednesday, giving up three runs on six hits.
Fort Wayne scored in the first on an RBI triple to center by Travis Whitmore. Lansing answered with runs in the second and third innings to take a 2-1 lead.
The TinCaps regained the lead with two in the fifth. Jankowski knocked in Kyle Gaedele to tie the game at 2. With runners on first and second, Jace Peterson then placed a bunt down the third-base line. Reliever Shawn Griffith fielded and fired to third to try to cut down the lead runner, Stubblefield. The throw went wide of third base and into left field, allowing Stubblefield to score the go-ahead run.
Jose put the bunt on, and I knew if Jace got the bunt down, I had to do all I could to get to third base, Stubblefield said. I saw him get the bunt down, and I was running as fast as I could to try to get to third base. Honestly, did not know the ball went into left field. Jose was screaming – I didn’t really understand what he was saying – but I just looked and the next thing I knew I saw the ball and I got up and scored.
Said Valentin: Our game is speed, running. Most of the guys on my team are pretty good runners. If you put the ball in play, put it in the ground and run hard, it puts pressure on the defense. Anything can happen.
Fort Wayne’s speed paid off again an inning later. Jankowski came up with runners on second and third and two outs. He hit a slow grounder to short and beat the throw to first. Austin Hedges scored, making it 4-2.
Once I hit it I knew if it got the past pitcher I might have a chance to beat it out, Jankowski said. I ran as hard as I could, the adrenaline was flowing, and I beat it out.
The adrenaline was flowing for Brandon Alger, who entered in the seventh. Lansing’s first two batters reached against the Leo and Indiana Tech product, but Alger struck out the next two.
A little bit of nerves when I came out there at first, but they went away after the first couple of pitches, so that was good, Alger said of his Fort Wayne debut. I was just looking to get a ground ball double play out of it. But I’ll take the two strikeouts.
Johnny Barbato struck out Chris Hawkins to end the inning.
Stubblefield added an insurance run with a long home run to left in the eighth inning. Matt Stites got the last out of the eighth and then pitched a perfect ninth.
We’re not done yet, Valentin said. We have to go up there and get one out of two. Hopefully just get one and come back here and just keep winning.