Backup catcher John Nester hit a game-winning RBI single in the eighth inning as the TinCaps outlasted West Michigan 2-1 on Wednesday night in the opener of a three-game series at Parkview Field.
The TinCaps (59-75, 29-36 second half) helped themselves tremendously in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division playoff race, as most of their main competitors lost. The TinCaps are a game back of Dayton (30-35 second half) for the wild card spot, and Bowling Green and Great Lakes each sit at 35 losses.
Franmil Reyes started the decisive rally by drawing a one-out walk and moved to second base on a passed ball. After Jake Bauers whiffed for the second out, Nester dropped a base hit over the heads of the middle infielders into shallow center. Reyes ran hard and beat the throw.
The first-place Whitecaps (80-55, 39-26) got only an RBI double by league MVP Wynton Bernard in the fifth.
Ronald Herrera went five innings and gave up one on three hits, matching Whitecaps All-Star Austin Kubitza, who gave up one run on six hits in six innings.
Bauers had an RBI single in the fourth.
The Fort Wayne bullpen gave Nester a chance. Newcomer Colby Blueberg got five outs in his team debut, Eric Yardley got four outs for the win, and Ryan Butler induced a fly to left with the tying run on third to lock down his eighth save.