The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 02, 2021 12:00 am

Hassell homers three times in TinCaps win

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Robert Hassell III put on a performance for the ages in his third game with the TinCaps, becoming the first Fort Wayne player to hit three home runs in a game in more than a decade and only the third in franchise history to ever to do it.

Hassell's long ball barrage, including a two-run blast in the 11th inning, led the TinCaps to a 12-11 victory over the first-place Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond on Wednesday.

Fort Wayne (50-54) already led 10-8 when Hassell came to the plate in the 11th. On a fastball on the inside corner up above his letters, he got his hands out in front in a flash and lifted his third homer of the night to right, matching a feat last accomplished by a TinCap on July 22, 2010, when Jonathan Galvez did it.

Hassell, the 2020 No. 8 overall pick, has 10 home runs this season between Fort Wayne and Low-A Lake Elsinore. 

After neither team scored in the 10th, the TinCaps took the lead for good in the 11th when a wild pitch brought Zack Mathis in from third to make it 9-8. Reinaldo Ilarraza followed with an RBI single to double the advantage.

The Loons, who came into the matchup one game out of the final playoff spot in High-A Central, did not go quietly, however. They scored three runs in the bottom of the 11th off Fort Wayne reliever Wen-Hua Sung, forcing the TinCaps to bring in Austin Smith to face Leonel Valera with the bases loaded and two outs. Smith got Valera to ground out to first to end the game and earned his first save since July 12, 2019.

Hassell hit a solo shot pulled to right in the fifth inning to put Fort Wayne up 6-5 and added a two-run opposite-field blast an inning later that extended the advantage to three runs. TinCaps reliever Felix Minjarez gave up a three-run homer to Joe Vranesh that knotted the score at 8 in the bottom of the sixth.

Justin Lopez also homered for the TinCaps, his ninth long ball of the season, and added an RBI double. He drove in three and has 13 RBI in his last five games, but he grounded into a 3-2-3 double play with the bases full and no one out in the 10th that kept Fort Wayne from scoring in that inning.

Hassell's fellow recent Low-A call-up, catcher Brandon Valenzuela, also in his third game with Fort Wayne, went 3 for 3 with two walks and two runs scored. In three games with the TinCaps, Valenzuela has reached base nine times and has a .643 OBP.

Ilarraza had two hits and drove in two. He also stole a base in the 11th, his 34th steal of the season, tying him for fourth in the league.

Fort Wayne is 4-2 in extra-inning games this season.

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