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Last updated: Fri. Apr. 17, 2009 - 12:12 pm EDT

TinCaps on a roll

They handily dispose of Dayton, thrill crowd on opening night

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First pitch: Dayton at TinCaps, 7 p.m. today

Radio: WKJG, 1380-AM

TV: Comcast Digital Ch. 81

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Just about everything has gone right for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in this young season - their pitching has been nearly unhittable, hitting timely and defense mostly errorless.

So after six road games to start the season, the TinCaps were able to showcase to the home crowd just how good they've been. Precisely 8,208 fans came out Thursday evening to the grand opening of Parkview Field and watched the TinCaps dispose of the Dayton Dragons 7-0.

“It feels great every time you're on a roll like this and everybody is playing really well,” TinCaps third baseman James Darnell said. “This team … bonds really well. Opening night… this is so much excitement. All the fans bring the best out of us because it's such an atmosphere.”

There were plenty of festivities before and after the game to commemorate the opening of the $31 million downtown ballpark. Former Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a pair of F-16 fighter jets flew over after the national anthem, and fireworks brightened the sky after the two-hour, 45-minute game.

But fans were also treated to plenty of on-field highlights.

After giving up a single and walking the first two batters he faced, TinCaps starting pitcher Nick Schmidt struck out the side to raucous cheers from the crowd.

“I kind of got chills when the crowd went wild,” Schmidt said. “That was pretty cool.”

Darnell fouled off three pitches in the second inning before making history and smacking the first home run at Parkview Field.

The shot was rocketed over the left-field wall and into the Home Run Porch.

“It's an honor,” Darnell said. “It's the best field by far I've every played on. There's so much fun going on out there and seeing these fans… it's a real blessing.”

Matt Clark slapped a two-out, two-RBI single in the third inning to lift the TinCaps to a 4-0 lead. Allan Dykstra added an RBI double in the fifth inning and later scored on a fielding error by the right fielder.

Jeudy Valdez blasted a stand-up triple to right-center to lead off the sixth inning and then scored on a balk.

“A couple of guys are starting to get hot a little bit,” TinCaps manager Doug Dascenzo said.

Now at 7-0, the TinCaps are the only undefeated team in the Midwest League. This is the club's best start in its 17-year history. They started 3-0 on three occasions.

After Schmidt's four scoreless innings, the starting pitchers have allowed just three earned runs in 32 1/3 innings pitched. That's a whopping 0.84 earned-run average.

The bullpen, too, was phenomenal Thursday, as it has been all season. After Alex Lara (1), Erik Davis (3) and Zach Herr (1) combined for five innings of scoreless work, they lowered the bullpen's ERA to 0.28. It has allowed one earned run in 31 2/3 innings. Davis got the win, his first of the season.

“Everybody is just on fire right now,” Schmidt said. “We're starting the season on the right note. Lots of things are going the right way. Guys are pitching and guys are hitting.”

Former Snider High School and current Dayton Dragons player Kyle Day went 0-for-3 and drew a walk.

The infielder was a 12th-round selection of the Cincinnati Reds in last June's MLB amateur draft.


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