FARGO, N.D. — It looked like a home run derby Thursday as the Winnipeg Goldeyes defeated the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 5-3 on a night when all the runs scored were driven in by home runs.
Winnipeg’s stars of the night were first baseman Josh Mazzola, who hit two-run home runs in the seventh and eighth innings while second baseman Yurendell de Caster hit a solo dinger in the eighth as the Goldeyes took a 2-0 lead in the American Association’s best-of-five semifinal series at Newman Outdoor Field before a crowd of 1,944.
Fargo catcher Ryan Delgado started off the dinger derby with his three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth to open the scoring.
Winnipeg starter Chris Salamida pitched six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and striking out six batters. Zach Baldwin recorded the win and Brian Beuning tossed a 1.2 inning-save. Fargo’s Tom Boleska was the losing pitcher.
Goldeyes manager Rick Forney, referring to the fact his team finished 10 games back of the RedHawks in the regular season, said his team played "two of the best games we’ve played all year."
"We’re in a lot better position than a lot of people thought we’d be heading back home," Forney said. "It’s been a while since we hit multiple home runs in a game and had big hits like that to produce some important runs.
"They’re leaving it out on the field and it’s fun to watch them right now."
Mazzola and de Caster’s home runs in the eighth came off Boleska, the AA reliever-of-the-year, who had previously allowed just one home run in 46 innings in the regular season.
The series returns to Winnipeg’s Shaw Park Friday for the third game at 7 p.m. when two righties are expected to start in Winnipeg’s Matt Rusch (10-4, 2.40 ERA) and Fargo’s Paul Burnside (9-6, 3.20).
The Goldeyes won the first game 4-2 after starting pitcher Ace Walker held Fargo to five hits, third baseman Amos Ramon went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a two-run home run and Beuning pitched a three-inning save.
"We’re not out of it, there’s still another game to be won by them and three by us. We’ve got to go up there and get ourselves in a comfortable situation and start swinging the bat and scoring some runs," said RedHawks manager Doug Simunic.
Thursday’s game was scoreless through the first 5 ½ innings with each side having few chances to score.
The two sides broke open the home runs after that. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Delgado got an inside pitch by Salamida that he crushed over the left-field wall for a three-run home run. He scored centre-fielder Nic Jackson, who got aboard on a lead-off double, and third-baseman Eric Campbell, who got to first on a single.
In the top of the seventh, Winnipeg designated hitter Barbaro Canizares hit a lead-off double followed by Mazzola, who responded with a two-run home run.
In the top of eighth with two out, de Caster tied the game with his solo homer. Canizares, the next batter, got aboard with a single and then Mazzola drove him in with his second dinger of the night to propel the Goldeyes to a 5-3 lead.