Walk-off wins feel good, really good -- especially at home, where the Winnipeg Goldeyes have struggled to come up with big hits at big moments.
Not so for Casey Haerther on Tuesday. The Goldeyes first baseman came up big not once, but twice in the first of a three-game stand against the Grand Prairie AirHogs, scoring the late hits that would give the Goldeyes their first lead and then clinch them the walk-off win.
After the Fish failed to take advantage of a bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh inning, Haerther came up to the plate in the eighth poised to play hero. Haerther launched a solo home run over the right-field wall to put the Fish up 6-5. It was his first major of the season.
Then, after a blown save in the top of the ninth to tie the game 6-6, Haerther would have another chance at the plate with runners on first and second and two out. The Goldeyes sophomore smacked a line drive into left field to bring home Reggie Abercrombie as teammates poured onto the field to celebrate the come-from-behind win.
"I think last year I had a couple (walk-offs) but it never gets old, man, it's exciting to be in that situation," said Haerther, whose teammates chased after him as he rounded first base.
There's that situational hitting Goldeyes manager Rick Forney has been looking for this season. Where the Goldeyes batters had been swinging for a team total of .306 to lead off an inning entering Wednesday's action, that figure tumbles to .205 with a runner in scoring position and two outs, or .167 with the bases loaded.
So how can batters keep their cool under pressure? "Everyone's been in that situation before, I'm pretty sure, you just got to try to slow everything down and not try to do too much," Haerther said. "Any time you sit there with bases loaded, everyone wants to hit a grand slam, everyone wants to hit that double that drives everyone in, but that single does just as good as everything else."
The Fish will need those skills if they want to take advantage of their latest opportunity. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Fish only sit half a game out of first place and they kick off a series with the division-leading St. Paul Saints on Friday.
The Fish haven't played their best baseball at Shaw Park during the handful of games they have actually been in Winnipeg. So far this season, they've only played nine games at Shaw and have failed to win a series. Now about a quarter of the way through the season, Fish fans can expect more home games as summer kicks into full gear.
The Goldeyes know they can win on the road, but now it's about putting together wins in Winnipeg, wrapping up with this morning's tilt against the AirHogs.
"Last homestand, you know, we didn't play that well," said Haerther, who is .345 at the dish this season. "We're coming off a 5-2 road trip, which is good, and I think we're very comfortable playing on the road. But playing in front of these fans at home is very important to us and winning at home is really important to us."