Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish finally heed call of the wild

Rusch fans 13 as club makes playoffs

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What a Rusch for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. They clinched the American Association's wild-card playoff berth Saturday as Matt Rusch struck out 13 and recorded his 10th win, leading the Goldeyes to a 5-1 triumph over the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks before a crowd of 6,018 at Shaw Park.

The players celebrated on the field briefly, dousing each other with champagne. Manager Rick Forney got a Gatorade shower courtesy of centre-fielder Chris Roberson, named a league all-star earlier Saturday, and first baseman Josh Mazzola, Winnipeg (55-43) and Fargo (63-35) play the second of the three-game set today at 1:30 p.m. Expected starters are Goldeyes' lefty Todd Privett (5-6, 3.87) and RedHawks' southpaw Jake Laber.

The final regular-season game is Monday at 7 p.m. Winnipeg will open the best-of-five semifinal series on Wednesday and Thursday at Newman Outdoor Field, home of the North Division champion RedHawks. Games 3, 4 and 5 are set for Shaw Park on Sept. 7, 8 and 9.

"The most important thing was for us to get the win, get in the playoffs and go from there," said Rusch, a righty whose 13 strikeouts -- including six straight -- ties a career high.

"I just kind of wanted to tell the guys, 'just follow me tonight' and hopefully everything works out. It did and I'm happy. The most important thing was just getting them out. It feels good to get in a groove like that and hopefully I can take that into my next start."

Winnipeg third baseman Amos Ramon, who has made Winnipeg his permanent home for the past couple of years, said it meant a lot to the team to clinch the playoff berth in their home park in front of Winnipeg fans.

"I want us to bring the championship home for all these guys, but also for the city and the province. They've been waiting for a championship for a long time, with the Bombers (coming) so close, going to the Grey Cup last year," said Ramon, who started things off in a three-run seventh with a lead-off single. "It was such a great team effort against such a tough team. We've got to keep it going and get that snowball effect."

Forney said the game was "a nice bounce-back effort" after losing their last three at home to the Sioux City Explorers.

"They played such good baseball against us and we didn't do quite enough to win. You're starting to scratch your head trying to figure out ways to win baseball games," Forney said. "We're playing a tough Fargo team that's had our number all year and to perform the way we did today in a dire situation, it shows you what (we're) capable of. It's a good group and they've earned the right to play for a championship."

The Goldeyes scored a pair of runs in the fourth as Mike Coles and Kyle Day plated baserunners.

Fargo third baseman Eric Campbell crushed a solo home run to left in the seventh off Rusch to make it 2-1.

Winnipeg's bats came alive in the bottom of the frame as the Goldeyes notched three. With the bases loaded, a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Barbaro Canizares scored Ramon. Mazzola then rapped a single to score Roberson and Yurendell de Caster for a 5-1 lead.

After hitting into eight double plays in the past four games, the Goldeyes did not hit into any on Saturday.

"We knew it was going to be a dogfight tonight, that's a very good team over there (Fargo) and a lot of respect goes to them," Rusch said. "We really beared down tonight. It really says something when I give up a run and we come back and score three in the bottom of the inning."

Forney said catcher Luis Alen, who has played in all of the Goldeyes' 98 games so far, will get the day off today. Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2012 B5


Updated on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 10:49 AM CDT: adds score

12:53 PM: corrects paragraph break in second graph that made it look as if part of text was missing

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