Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish end skid with unconventional win

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EVEN though the final score stood 7-2, you wouldn't want to make a textbook example of the way the Winnipeg Goldeyes beat the St. Paul Saints at Shaw Park Thursday afternoon.

There were injuries, scrambles and a pile of substitutions.

Infielders Jake Blackwood and Sam Kimmel got hurt running bases; to plug the holes they left behind, backup catcher Jordan Guida found himself in the outfield once, and behind the plate twice. Heck, by the time the matinee was over, relief pitcher Kaohi Downing was posted in right field, and had taken a couple of turns at bat.

Last time he did that in a game was 2012, but "it felt good," Downing said.

So no, it wasn't so pretty. Still, after watching his squad drop three of the first four games in the home series, Goldeyes manager Rick Forney was just anxious to stop the bleeding. They did, and now sit 37-22 on the season, 41/2 games ahead of the Saints for the North division lead.

Sure, losing Blackwood and Kimmel threw a wrench in the plan. Blackwood tweaked his leg and felt good after the game; Kimmel, who just signed with the Fish earlier this week to help replace injured Ryan Pineda, has a strained hip flexor and could miss some games.

"It's a must win," Forney said. "Obviously, our mettle's being tested a bit right here. It's not easy when you lose a couple of guys like that, you've got to piece it together as best you can."

It helped that the Fish were able to chomp on some Saints mistakes. The visitors registered three errors and made a few other key gaffes, all of which added up to hand the Goldeyes get away.

Their first and second runs came off a bungled fifth-inning throw from Saints starting hurler Robert Coe; that error let Reggie Abercrombie scamper past home and allowed Kimmel onto second base. Downing pinched there to add another unearned run, on a Casey Haerther shot.

To be sure, there were some fine bats on Thursday. Outfielder Donnie Webb kicked off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run. In the end, that would stand as the winning score -- but not before the Fish added four more. Second baseman Brock Bond made a run, after an error by the Saints' shortstop.

Catcher Luis Alen stepped up to the plate in the eighth, and cashed in two runners with his single base hit. Haerther later drove Alen home with a double.

So yeah, it was a scrappy, slap-happy sort of game. But here's one thing -- Goldeyes starting hurler Ethan Hollingsworth, he battled.

In his sixth start and fourth win for the Fish, Hollingsworth battled. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, gave up eight hits and just one earned run. He struck out four Saints batters, walked two of them on. But under pressure in the fourth and fifth inning, the seventh-year pro worked his team out of trouble: even with the bases loaded, the Saints just couldn't put the barrel to the ball when it most mattered.

"Makes or breaks the game, right there," Forney said. "That's the difference in a veteran pitcher and a young pitcher. The veteran guy can still make pitches and have a little bit of a feel for how to get himself out of that situation... Ethan Hollingsworth did a hell of a job right there for us."

After the game, Hollingsworth was more demure about his performance.

"They take me out of my comfort zone a little bit," said the first-year Goldeye, who is now riding a 3.96 ERA. "Usually, I try and throw quite a lot more fastballs than I ended up throwing. I had to go to the off-speed pretty quick, mix up a bunch of pitches and force them to make weak contact."

No sooner did Hollingsworth finish speaking, than the Goldeyes were ready to get packing. They hit the road on Thursday afternoon, headed for Kansas City, where they will face the T-Bones for three games starting tonight. When those two teams last met at Shaw Park in early July, the Goldeyes swept the series.

"We had a pretty rough homestand right there," Haerther said. "I think we're ready to go on the road for a few days, and come back here and play Fargo."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2014 C6

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