FORT WAYNE — On Hispanic Heritage Night, Mexico native Brandon Valenzuela of the Manzanas Luchadoras de Fort Wayne hit a run-scoring single in the bottom of the seventh to plate the go-ahead run in a 9-5 victory over the Paletas de Beloit in front of their biggest crowd of the season at Parkview Field.

Brandon Valenzuela has been red-hot for Fort Wayne. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

“He has been damaging the baseball,” said his manager Jonathan Mathews about Valenzuela. “In the past series, he had some pull-side home runs, and he’s always good behind the plate with everything that you want a catcher to be.”

In Valenzuela’s last five starts coming into tonight’s game, he was hitting .438 with a double, three walks, three home runs, and four RBI.

“If he continues to play the way he has, and unfortunately for us, but fortunate for him, he’s not going to be here too much longer.”

Fort Wayne got off to a rough start as four of the first five batters got hits off of starter Victor Lizarraga, putting three runs on the board. The righthander from Tijuana bounced back and, after allowing a run in the second, shut down Beloit for the next three innings.

“Tonight, Brandon came back to the dugout and said Victor’s slider wasn’t working that well, so he started to throw his curve more,” said Matthews on Lizarraga, who has expanded his repertoire of pitches from last year.

“He can manipulate the baseball. His fastball has great movement, and he can command it to both sides [of the plate]. Then he’ll use what breaking ball works best that night to go along with his changeup.”

The Manzanas Luchadoras added two more runs in the eighth inning and righthander Adam Smith threw two shutout innings to get his first save of the year.

Smith, San Diego’s 14th-round draft pick in 2021 out of UNC-Wilmington, was initially recruited by the Seahawks as a two-way player but switched to pitching full-time after his first year.

In his second season with Fort Wayne, he has a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings with nine strikeouts against two walks.

“He’s a strike thrower, and Beloit has a lot of lefties in their lineup, so he was using his cutter, which goes a different direction than his fastball,” said Matthews.

“He was getting outs.”

Notes:  A big night for Carlos Luis, who had a pair of doubles, and just missed a home run to center in the sixth inning. … Jakob Marsee reached base twice on a single and a walk to push his on-base percentage up to .418, which is ninth overall in the Midwest League. … Jackson Merrill again has had a bit of a flu bug and should be back in the lineup tomorrow night.

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.


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