WICHITA, Kan. — Our 18-year championship drought is over, Winnipeg.
Say hello to your new favourite sons, the 2012 American Association champion Winnipeg Goldeyes, who swept the final best-of-five series 3-0.
Led by a two-run double by centre-fielder Chris Roberson and a three-run double by catcher Luis Alen, the Goldeyes defeated the Wichita Wingnuts 8-3 at Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Friday night.
It’s the first championship for the Goldeyes since 1994, their inaugural season when they won the Northern League title. Wichita was in the championship series for the first time in its five years in the league.
It’s the first championship in a professional sport for the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba since ’94.
Winnipeg starter Matt Rusch got the win, tossing six innings and allowing three runs on five hits with four strikeouts.
Wichita starter Derek Blacksher went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs — two unearned — on nine hits with four strikeouts.
The Goldeyes were road warriors this season. Winnipeg was a better road team than home team with a .580 winning percentage on the road, winning 29 games.
The Wingnuts were tough in their own park with a .627 home-field winning percentage.
The Goldeyes scored five runs in the second inning, two of them unearned. First baseman Josh Mazzola started things off with a one-out double and was driven in by catcher Luis Alen’s single. Alen scored on a double to centre field by Mike Coles. Then there was a little two-out lightning by the Goldeyes as third baseman Amos Ramon singled to centre to drive in Coles. Next up was shortstop Price Kendall, who got aboard on an error by Wichita third baseman Greg Porter, who had the ball bounce off his glove. Roberson capped the inning with a two-run double, scoring Ramon and Kendall for a 5-0 lead.
The Wingnuts responded in the bottom of the second with a leadoff home run over the centre-field wall by first baseman C.J. Ziegler to get on the board.
In the fourth inning, the Goldeyes committed two errors and the Wingnuts set the stage for a comeback with two runs. Designated hitter John Rodriguez scored on a left-fielder’s error and first baseman C.J. Ziegler scoring on an error in right field to make it 5-3 Goldeyes.
Wichita had Winnipeg in a jam the sixth with two runners on base. Mazzola was tagged with a throwing error, Winnipeg’s third error of the night. Wichita’s Greg Porter got to first after Mazzola’s throw toward second hit Ziegler in the back. But Rusch got Winnipeg out of it by striking out catcher Jessie Mier for the final out.
In the seventh, the Goldeyes loaded the bases with none out after back-to-back walks to Yurendell de Caster and Barbaro Canizares were followed by a Mazzola single. Catcher Luis Alen drove in all three with a double to the gap in centre to lift Winnipeg to an 8-3 lead.