The largest crowd in Parkview Field history turned out Thursday night to watch the TinCaps play their annual Fourth of July game under the lights.
Fort Wayne took the field in red, white and blue jerseys with the apple logo on their hat overlaid with the American flag. When the TinCaps rallied late in the game, the crowd of 9,508 was easily the loudest it has been all season.
It wasn't enough in the end. The TinCaps managed just four hits and despite Sam Keating's seven innings of excellent work on the mound, Fort Wayne fell 4-1, its sixth loss in the last seven games.
The TinCaps (37-45, 4-10 second half) went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and are just 1 for 18 in those situations over the last two games. Manager Anthony Contreras knows his team is young, but he was hesitant to blame only inexperience.
“The growing pains is easy to go to because of the youth,” Contreras said. “But now with this many games under our belt, we have to be able to make adjustments at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch.”
The Captains (49-34, 9-5) took the lead in the first inning when a throw from left-fielder Grant Little to third hit a sliding Jose Fermin's foot and skittered away to give Fermin a chance to score.
Lake County added two runs in the fourth, both coming after two out. One of them scored on a swinging bunt just out of Keating's reach for an infield hit. The 20-year-old right-hander did not give up an earned run in his seven innings and struck out four.
Fort Wayne's only run came in the eighth when Dwanya Williams-Sutton grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded. Three TinCaps walked in the inning, but only one run scored.
The defeat leaves the TinCaps last in the Midwest League's Eastern Division and a season-worst eight games under .500 overall.
Lake County starter Zach Draper had his best start of the year, working a season-high six innings without giving up a run on four hits while striking out three. Fort Wayne beat the ball into the ground over and over again and did not get a runner past second base against the 24-year-old left-hander.
“(Draper), he's an older guy, he knows how to pitch,” said catcher Blake Hunt, who went 2 for 3 with a walk. “He was working us in, out, changing speeds, speeding us up. Like I always say, you gotta give credit where credit's due. He knew how to pitch tonight.”
Hunt extended a seasonlong hitting streak to 10 games and has multiple hits in six straight. Over the last six weeks, he is getting on base at a .368 clip and slugging .500.
The Fort Wayne catcher was impressed by the raucous Independence Day atmosphere at Parkview Field, comparing it to a spring training game the Padres played in Mexico City.
“(It's) pretty cool,” Hunt said. “I haven't played in front of this many fans in awhile. This is a really unique atmosphere, obviously with this stadium. ... Not gonna forget this one. This rivals that game in Mexico in spring training for sure.”
The TinCaps' specialty jerseys were auctioned off and raised $6,278 for Honor Flight Northeast Indiana.
TinCaps vs. Lake County
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Omar Cruz (TinCaps) vs. Luis Oviedo (Captains)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM