SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Just when it started to look like the brooms would be staying in the closet, the South Bend Silver Hawks (25-17) came through in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the 9th inning on Sunday to complete a four game sweep of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (17-25) at Four Winds Field.
With the score knotted at 8, the Silver Hawks scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Just as the Hawks were getting ready to start the celebration, the TinCaps put up two runs of their own in the top of the 9th inning to take the lead. The Hawks countered in the last half of the ninth with a sacrifice fly and a walk-off infield hit from first baseman Daniel Palka to seal the 11-10 victory.
With the win, the Hawks climbed into first place in the Midwest League Eastern Division Standings, pulling half a game ahead of the Dayton Dragons, the Class-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
The scoring fury began early in the top of the first. Third baseman Dustin Peterson got the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, going with a one out single to shallow center. Second baseman Fernando Perez followed with a single to right that advanced Peterson to third. Peterson was able to score the first run of the ballgame when designated hitter Franmil Reyes connected on an opposite field single to right that also moved Perez to third. Catcher Dane Phillips got in on the action with a bloop single to shallow left to score Perez and push Phillips to second. The TinCaps were not done yet as left fielder Henry Charles snuck in a duck snort to right to score Reyes and give Fort Wayne an early 3-0 lead.
The South Bend Silver Hawks, Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, struck back for two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. Shortstop Andrew Velazquez led off with a triple to the left-center field gap. Second baseman Jamie Westbrook then took a first pitch offering from Fort Wayne starter, Payton Baskette, over the left field wall to close the gap to 3-2.
Just when it looked like Hawks starter Sean Furney had escaped the second inning, center fielder Mallex Smith beat out an infield single as Westbrook was able to field the ball behind the second base bag but not in time to make a play. Peterson continued his hot hitting in the series as he belted a homer just inside the left field foul pole to push the TinCaps to a 5-2 advantage.
The Hawks clawed a run back in the bottom of the second. Left fielder Chuck Taylor led off with a line drive double to the left field corner. Catcher BJ Lopez reached on an fielding error by shortstop VanMeter, enabling Taylor to score from second.
The bats remained hot for the Hawks in the bottom of the third. Palka launched a double to deep right-center to start the inning. Designated hitter Steve McQuail lifted a ball into left. Henry tracked the ball down but was unable to squeeze it in his glove as it fell to the turf allowing McQuail to reach on the E-7 fielding and Palka to advance to third. A line drive single up the middle by center fielder Breland Almadova scored Palka and moved McQuail to second. A single by Lopez to shallow center scored McQuail and knotted the score at 5-5.
The TinCaps figured out Furney in the top of the fifth. Smith led off with a bunt single. Palka charged and cleanly fielded the ball but Smith reached first before Westbrook was able to cover. Smith then promptly stole second. Perez followed with a grounder to Velazquez at short. Velazquez attempt to get Smith at third, but his throw was late leaving runners at the corners. After a walk to Reyes to load the bases, Furney faked a pick-off toward third with Smith out to a large lead. The balk cost the Hawks a run as Smith scored and the runners moved up. A single to right by Phillips cleared the bases as Perez and Reyes crossed the plate and put the TinCaps in front 8-5.
South Bend countered with a run of their own in the bottom of the fifth. Right fielder Stryker Trahan led off with a soft fly to shallow center and then advanced to second on a passed ball. After moving up to third on a 6-3 groundout by Almadova, Trahan scored on Taylor’s single back up the middle into center, bringing the Hawks within 2 runs. Tony Wieber came on in relief of Baskette and closed the door on any further damage in the fifth. Baskette tossed 4 1/3 innings, giving up 6 runs, only 3 of which were earned, on 12 hits.
Sean Furney gave way to Tom Jameson to start the sixth. Furney pitched 5 innings, allowing 8 runs on 10 hits, while striking out 3 in his home debut for the Hawks. Jameson kept the TinCaps off the scoreboard for the next 3 innings, allowing the Hawks to jump on top. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Palka drew a walk from Wieber. McQuail followed by thumping a 0-1 pitch into the Fun Zone inflatable slide in left for a two run homer. Then in the eighth, Westbrook provided a flashback to the first inning as he belted his second homer of the game to the exact same location down the left field line. Westbrook’s fourth homer of the year gave the Hawks their first lead of the afternoon.
Will Locante (W, 2-0) entered in the top of the ninth looking to collect his second saves in as many days. Peterson drew a leadoff walk, but was erased on Perez’s fielder’s choice. Reyes followed with a double to the right field corner to put runners at second and third. Phillips hit a chopper that was fielded by Locante just toward the third base side of the mound. Locante’s throw to first was just high enough to lift Palka off the base. The E-1 throwing left the bases loaded with only one out. After a fly out to left by first baseman Jake Bauers, it looked like Locante might escape the jam. However, newly appointed pinch hitter Ryan Miller thwarted his efforts with a single to right field to score Perez and Reyes to put the TinCaps in front 10-9.
The Silver Hawks mustered heroics of their own in the bottom of the ninth. Taylor started the charge with a single to center off Fort Wayne reliever Nick Mutz (L, 0-2). Lopez laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Taylor into scoring position at second. Zach Esquerra entered the game for South Bend to pinch hit for Ryan Gebhardt. Esquerra hit a grounder down the third base line but Peterson dove to stop the ball behind the bag. Esquerra safely reached first and Taylor took third as no one covered the base. A sacrifice fly to center by Velazquez tied the game as Taylor scored. Westbrook continued his hot hand as he collected a single to center that allowed Esquerra to reach third. Palka then came through in the clutch with a sharply hit grounder toward second base. While Perez was able to knock the ball down, it was too late as Palka was quick down the line to first and Esquerra crossed the plate to give the Hawks a 11-10 victory for the sweep.
The Silver Hawks hit the road for a six game trip through the Wolverine State beginning Monday. First, they head up the mitten to the top of the pinky for three games against the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Class-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Hector Hernandez (0-0, 7.71) will start Monday night for South Bend. Austin Kubitz (5-0, 1.98) will take the mound for West Michigan. First pitch on Monday is set for 6:35 p.m. Thursday the Hawks will head over to Midland, Michigan where they will take on the Great Lakes Loons, Class-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Silver Hawks return home to Four Winds Field on Sunday May 25, for a three game Memorial Day weekend series against the Lansing Lugnuts, the Class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Sunday’s game is a special 4:05 p.m. start. Sunday is Family and Swoop Troop Day with a pregame catch on the field beginning at 3:15. Then after the game, come back down on the field for autographs from the Silver Hawks players.
On Memorial Day Monday, first pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Tuesday May 27 is a school day at Four Winds Field, with the game starting at 10:35 a.m.