The Winnipeg Goldeyes must be conditioned to play in cool weather this time of year.
Lake County third baseman Amos Ramon cracked an RBI double in the top of the ninth inning to give the Fielders the lead and right-fielder Jeff Dunbar lofted a three-run bomb over the left-field wall -- his second of the game -- to put an exclamation point on a 7-5 win over the Goldeyes in front of 6,311 at Canwest Park Thursday night.
It was the expansion club's first victory in Northern League play.
"It's good to get the win in that kind of fashion," Dunbar said after the game. "I had a feeling that Amos was going to do something before me. He did, and I just waited for the pitch I wanted.
"I was sitting curve ball, and he left it up."
Goldeyes closer Andrew Barb (0-1) wore the loss hard for the home side, blowing a one-run lead in the top of the inning before the Fielders put the game out of reach. Barb put his own exclamation point on the affair by getting tossed by home-plate umpire Ron Shewchuk for hitting Lake County catcher Anthony Esquer with a pitch following the big home run.
Though Barb threw some cold water on the potential Fish win, it wasn't like the home side came out hot at the start of the game.
With clear skies and an unseasonably warm Thursday evening as the backdrop for the start of the 17th summer of independent baseball, the Goldeyes looked like they were spinning their wheels in a snowbank through the first half of the contest.
Dunbar, who finished with five RBI, cracked the first home run in Lake County history in the second when he lifted a Matt Kniginyzky offering into the wind and over the left-field wall, just past the outstretched arm of outfielder Dee Brown.
The lanky Fish hurler struggled to get his fastball over in the right spots and when he went to his secondary pitches (the change-up and curve), he couldn't locate the strike zone with any consistency.
Before the game, Goldeyes manager Rick Forney figured the 27-year-old had about 85 pitches in his right arm and once he sawed off Fielders' second-baseman Joseph Ramos into a double play in the fourth, his night was complete.
"(Matt) just never got into a good rhythm," Forney said. "A lot of 2-1 counts, 3-1 counts -- he just never really had any flow and it affects you offensively because you're spending so much time on the field."
Much of the early Winnipeg ineffectiveness, with just one hit through four innings, was due to right-hander John Brownell. The Fielders starter looked impressive in his Northern League debut, retiring eight in a row at one point before giving up a Kevin West single in to lead off the fifth inning.
Second-baseman Josh Asanovich muscled a single to right to bring in West, and three batters later, shortstop Wes Long tied the game on an RBI single. Both Long and catcher Luis Alen had multiple RBI for Winnipeg.
Game 2 of the four-game set is tonight (7 p.m., 1290 CFRW). Winnipeg goes with Mark Holliman against fellow righty Garry Bakker.
Costner skips it
IT turns out Crash Davis is also an absentee Northern League owner.
Despite holding an ownership stake in the Lake County Fielders, one of the two new clubs in the Northern League this summer, actor Kevin Costner was a no-show to witness the club's first-ever game Thursday night.
Rumours were swirling in the morning that Costner might be in Winnipeg for the game. After talking to a few of the Fielders, though, it seems Dances with Wolves has little to do with the Lake County operation.
"I haven't spoke with him, I don't have his cellphone number, and we haven't exchanged any emails," Lake County manager Fran Riordan said prior to the game with the Goldeyes. "We did watch a couple of his movies on the bus, though.
"He's a hell of an actor."