Nick Fortes Provides Walk-Off Blast In Ninth For The Blue Wahoos

June 16, 2021

His previous at-bats Tuesday night had left Blue Wahoos catcher Nick Fortes frustrated at himself.

One sweet swing in the ninth inning changed that feeling.

Fortes squared up on a 3-1 fastball and powered it over the left-center wall for a two-run, walk-off, home run that lifted the Blue Wahoos to a dramatic 5-4victory against the Montgomery Biscuits and wowed a bayfront stadium crowd staying around to see it happen.

It was the first time in his career Fortes ended a game with a home-run stroke.

“It is honestly kinda crazy,” said Fortes, who also drove in the Blue Wahoos second run on a fielder’s choice play.  “You kinda black out for a little bit rounding the bases.

“I remember hitting first and a snap of the fingers I’m already at home greeting my teammates. It is a pretty cool feeling.”

This became the Blue Wahoos (22-15) third walk-off win in 19 home games. It continued the team’s success in one-run games. They are now 11-4 in that category after Tuesday’s series-opening win. The teams will continue a six-game set at Blue Wahoos Stadium through Sunday.

“It’s exciting. It makes for some really good baseball games,” Fortes said. “You can just tell the intensity picks a little bit once we get to the later innings.

“Obviously we would like to have those at-bats through the entire game, but it is really encouraging to see us not do so well early on, but then be able to lock it in, and put together good at bats later in the game and pull out some wins.”

While Blue Wahoos starting pitcher Jeff Lindgren gave up four runs in his five innings, he avoided worse damage in the second and fourth innings after yielding home runs.

The Biscuits (16-20), the Tampa Bay Rays Double-A affiliate, took a 3-0 lead in the second on shortstop Ford Proctor’s 3-run homer that kept carrying until clearing the left field wall.

Leadoff batter Garrett Whitney hit a solo home in the fifth. Three Blue Wahoos relievers produced shutout innings. Zach Wolf earned his first win by stranding Whitney at third base in the top of the ninth after he was hit by a pitch, advanced on a wild pitch, then moved to third on a groundout.

The Blue Wahoos got a pair of runs in the fourth on JJ Bleday’s double and Fortes’ one-out grounder. They got another in the eighth when Demetrius Sims hit into a double-play with runners on the corners.

In the eventful ninth, after Bleday grounded out, Jerar Encarnacion singled off Biscuits reliever Ivan Pelaez. Up stepped Fortes, who worked a 3-1 count and saw a 88-mph fastball that he left no doubt where it was heading after contact.

“It was a great feeling.  My first three at-bats weren’t my best,” Fortes said. “Just really happy to go up there and put a good swing on one and send us home with a win.

“Honestly, we just had a feeling we were going to get ‘em in the ninth. A bunch of the guys were like, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re going to get them.’

“From the seventh inning on we had some good at-bats. Everyone just had a feeling we were going to make some noise in the ninth.”

The Blue Wahoos had several roster moves prior to the game, led by the arrival of pitcher Edward Cabrera, the Miami Marlins No. 4 rated prospect by MLB Pipeline. The move provides the Blue Wahoos with three of Miami’s top four rated prospects in 2021.

Outfielder JJ Bleday (No. 2) and pitcher Max Meyer (No. 3) are the others.

by Bill Vilona, Blue Wahoos senior writer.

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