COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. – The Fort Wayne TinCaps were firing on all cylinders in an 11-1 win over the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers affiliate) on Friday night at LMCU Ballpark.
Left fielder Grant Little highlighted a big offensive performance for the team with his first Minor League Baseball home run. Meanwhile, starting pitcher Connor Lehmann turned in five solid innings and was backed by a trio of right-handed relievers. That included Kevin Kopps, college baseball’s 2021 Golden Spikes Award winner. The Arkansas Razorbacks alum, who the Padres drafted in the third round of last month’s MLB Draft, was added to Fort Wayne’s roster just before the game. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning with a strikeout.
The TinCaps (44-50) put four runs on the board before Lehmann even threw a pitch. Whitecaps (45-49) lefty starter Jack O’Loughlin, in his High-A debut, walked two of the first three batters he faced, while in between Little reached on an error. DH Jonny Homza hit a sacrifice fly to open the scoring. Second baseman Justin Lopez added an RBI single. O’Loughlin was pulled after facing just six batters as he threw 31 pitches (only 14 strikes). Zac Shepherd came on in relief, but Luis Almanzar, who played right field for the first time in his MiLB career, greeted him with an RBI single. Center fielder Reinaldo Ilarraza tacked on another sac fly.
Fort Wayne built on its lead in the third with another Almanzar RBI single. Then Little crushed a two-run shot to left in the fourth to make it 7-0. This was the 168th game of Little’s MiLB career after he was the 74th pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Though the Whitecaps scored their only run in the fourth, the TinCaps answered right away. In the fifth, Almanzar drove in a run with a groundout and catcher Adam Kerner provided a run-scoring double. In the sixth, first baseman Yorman Rodriguez delivered an RBI triple and Almanzar plated his fourth RBI of the night with another ground out. His 4 RBIs matched a season high.
The 6-foot-7 Lehmann, utilizing primarily a fastball and curveball combo, had success pitching to contact. The righty struck out two, walked two, and scattered five hits. The New Jersey native was coming off five scoreless innings last Sunday against South Bend.
Edwuin Bencomo followed Lehmann with two scoreless innings. Then Kopps worked the eighth, yielding just a two-out double to Tigers prospect Parker Meadows. Kopps threw nine pitches (seven strikes). Felix Minjarez put the finishing touches on the outing by striking out the side in order in the ninth.
Fort Wayne finished with 12 hits from eight different batters. Little, Lopez, Almanzar, and Kerner each had two hits.
Next Game: Saturday, Aug. 21 @ West Michigan (7:05 p.m.)
· Fort Wayne Probable Starter: RHP Gabe Mosser
· West Michigan Probable Starter: RHP Brendan White
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