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Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette|
Tincaps’ Walker Weickel pitches the ball during the game against the West Michigan Whitecaps at Parkview Field on Monday.

VanMeter, TinCaps get wild victory

Pickoff try in 9th goes awry, opening door for winning run

Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Tincaps’ Jake Bauers rounds third after hitting a home run in the fourth inning off Western Michigan starter Kevin Ziomek.

Josh VanMeter searched all around the dirt and grass near the netting behind home plate.

Eventually, he found a piece of the chain he wore during Monday’s game.

It fell off during a wild celebration of VanMeter’s winning run in the TinCaps’ 4-3 stunner over West Michigan at Parkview Field.

They were tied 3-all in the ninth inning with VanMeter at first. Moments later, after an ending so wild and crazy, not even VanMeter was quite sure how he scored.

Whitecaps catcher Bennett Pickar received a pitch from Julio Felix, stood halfway out of his crouch and tried a pickoff throw to first baseman Jeff Holm, who had his head down, according to TinCaps batter Ronnie Richardson.

The ball zoomed into the right field corner as VanMeter heard a teammate – maybe Chase Jensen – shout, “Run!”

It was a given that VanMeter could get to third. When right fielder Wynton Bernard bobbled the ball, TinCaps manager Michael Collins, who coaches third base, waved VanMeter home.

“I’m not sure if it was underneath the padding or what,” Collins said. “After we saw the right fielder clutch at it, whether he didn’t get a good grip I’m not sure, but I thought, ‘Hey, with two out, let’s try it.’ ”

Bernard hit the cutoff man for a play at the plate.

“The ball beat him,” Richardson said. “VanMeter just made a great slide. He was on the back side, got the hand in there, and that was that.”

Indeed it was, as the TinCaps (26-31) took two out of three in the series and won a day after the worst loss in franchise history.

“You don’t hope to win like that,” said Collins, a former catcher. “You feel bad for (Pickar), who was trying to help his team with a big play.”

Pinch-hitter Fernando Perez set the wheels in motion two batters earlier. He lofted a 1-2 pitch to right-center for a tying sacrifice fly. River Stevens, who tripled with one out, scored easily to give Fort Wayne new life.

“Coming off the bench is kind of tough,” Perez said. “I said, ‘I need to get this run to score.’ I prepared myself in the seventh inning that the game was close and I’d probably get a chance.”

West Michigan (32-26) appeared to have ruined a dominant start by Walker Weickel with runs in the seventh and eighth that erased a what had been 2-1 TinCaps lead.

Weickel, who went six innings and gave up one run on four hits, saw the finish on TV as he went through his post-start stretching routine.

“Crazy way to win, but a win nonetheless,” Weickel said.

“There have been weird wins and weird losses. A three-base error, around the horn like that, I think is a first.”

The manic scene behind home plate after Fort Wayne’s fifth walk-off victory saw VanMeter pushed against the wall near the visiting dugout.

“Somebody grabbed me by the neck,” VanMeter said. “I think I was sitting in the first row of the seats. It was fun, though.”