BOTH benches cleared.
In a series that has featured double-digit blowouts by both teams, it is no surprise that tempers were hotter than the Sunday sun in the final game of a four-game series between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Sioux Falls Pheasants.
Sioux Falls evened the series in a heated 4-1 win, but the result was secondary to the process.
When Goldeyes left-fielder Jon Weber, who’s batting .400 at home this season, grounded out to first in the bottom of the sixth, every single one of the 5,466 fans at Shaw Park knew it would not be a routine walk back to the dugout.
Sioux Falls southpaw reliever Chris Salberg and Weber took an immediate dislike to one another. Salberg whizzed a pitch by Weber’s head and was issued a warning by plate umpire Lance Schoenwald. After the groundout Salberg cut Weber off as he was returning to the Goldeyes bench and the two began shoving.
Both dugouts emptied and every coach and player grabbed an opponent in a ballpark brawl. For a moment, the diamond at Shaw Park looked like the WWE main event.
"He had something to say to me after he got that out," Weber said. "And that’s not right. You got the out, you did your job, so keep your mouth shut."
The melee lasted less than two minutes, and no one was ejected, but the intensity of the series and the pressures that mount at this point in the American Association’s 100-game season were on full display.
"Look, when 26 grown men are out there on the field, it’s just the nature of the beast," Weber said. "Everyone wants to win, so emotions are running high. I’ve yet to meet a guy who enjoys losing."
Pheasants starter Ben Moore gave up one run on three hits through five innings for the win.
"We lost," Weber said. "Their starter did a great job, but last I checked, we’re still in first place. That’s what matters."
The turning point of Sunday’s game came in the fifth inning.
Winnipeg starter Chris Salamida, who came into the game with a 7-1 record and an ERA of 2.78, was slightly short of adequate, pitching six innings and allowing four runs. However, two of those runs never should have been recorded.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Schoenwald ruled that a Salamida pitch hit Pheasants second baseman Kevin Carby. The Fish and their fans disagreed vehemently, as Salamida, catcher Luis Alen and manager Rick Forney each gave Schoenwald a piece of their mind In accordance with Murphy’s Law, Sioux Falls catcher Henry Contreras stepped up to the plate immediately after the controversial call and knocked his sixth dinger of the season over left the left field wall.
A 1-1 tie turned into a two-run deficit as Winnipeg found itself down 3-1. With the series ending in a 2-2 tie, the question of who has the upper hand will have to wait until next time.
The Fish now hold just a one-anda- half game lead over the St. Paul Saints in the North Division as they welcome the Sioux City Explorers to Shaw Park for a three-game series beginning Tuesday night at 7.p.m.