Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flying Fish sail higher than kites

Hitting the road with best record in indy baseball

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They've got the stingiest starting pitcher in the league. They've got the most reliable closer in the league. They've got the best shortstop and catcher in the league. They've got the highest team batting average in the league. They've got the best team ERA in the league.

They've got the longest active winning streak in the league at seven games. They've just tied the franchise record for consecutive wins at home with eight.

And they've got the best record in all of independent baseball.

Google maps says the bus trip from Winnipeg to Joliet is 13 hours 58 minutes. But it will feel like an instant for the Goldeyes players as they head out on a six-game road trip riding so high, it will feel like they're flying.

"This is the best team," says right-hander Ace Walker, "that I've been on in a long, long time."

Walker is one of the reasons for the Goldeyes' 19-5 season record.

His 2.32 ERA is the stingiest in the Northern League, tied with Luis Villareal of Kansas City. But Walker has a better record at 3-0, compared to Villareal's 1-1.

And the pitchers supporting Walker have also been sterling. The eight relievers of the Fish bullpen have yielded just 18 earned runs in 78 innings, a miniscule 2.06 ERA. And leading the way has been closer Matt Davis, with a league-best seven saves. Three more saves and Davis will be tied with Donnie Smith for second all-time in franchise history. Twelve more and he's got the club record from Steve Thomas.

The four Goldeyes starters, meantime, now have a collective record of 11-1, with Andrew Cruse picking up the latest win with a 6-2 decision over the SouthShore RailCats Thursday.

Then there's shortstop Wes Long. Long is second in the league with a .368 batting average, leads the league in hits with 35, doubles with 12 and extra base hits with 14. On top of that, he's been excellent in the field.

And Long isn't the only one who's been great at the dish. DH Juan Diaz got another hit on Thursday to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, right fielder Kevin West is second in the league with six home runs and catcher Dustin Richardson -- who was 2-for-3 for Thursday with a double and two RBI -- is hitting at the bottom of the order and yet is seventh in the league with a .338 batting average.

Fish manager Rick Forney, whose club boasted a 31/2 game lead over second-place Schaumburg heading into Thursday night play, sounds like what he is right now -- a happy man who is watching his off-season vision magically come to life between the lines.

"That's what you pay these guys to do," says Forney. "You pay them to drive in runs."

The Goldeyes have been getting their money's worth -- and then some -- so far.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

 

And for the 7th day they bested

SEVEN times in a row now the Winnipeg Goldeyes have scored in the first inning.

And seven times in a row they have won.

The fast-starting Fish completed a sweep of a seven-game homestand Thursday afternoon at Canwest Park, jumping out to a 3-0 first-inning lead and never looking back en route to a 6-2 win over the Gary SouthShore RailCats.

The win was also the ninth in a row for the Fish at Canwest, tying a franchise record for most consecutive wins at home that goes back to 2004.

Goldeyes catcher Dustin Richardson led the way for Winnipeg, going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs driven in. Fish starter Andrew Cruse picked up the win, scatting scattering seven hits and giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings worked.

The Fish will now attempt to continue their winning ways on the road for the next week as they head out this weekend for a six-game road trip that will take them to Joliet and then on to Fargo

--Wiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2009 C8

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