BEFORE the final fireworks spread tendrils across the sky, before the Goldeyes said their last goodbye, they had one last winning thrill in store.
With nothing but pride on the line, the Fish snapped an eighth-inning tie on Monday to best the visiting Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 6-5. The victory clinched a 2-1 series win, the only times the Fish beat Fargo this year, and sealed their 20th season with a 56-44 record.
Of course, no thrill comes without a little terror, and it all came down to a ninth-inning nailbiter, as the RedHawks clawed to within one and still had two Fargo runners waiting hungry on the bags. With the bullpen emptied, the spotlight was on reliever Chris Kissock then, as he stared down at RedHawks hitter Buddy Sosnoskie who had two balls, two strikes on the board.
Kissock wound up and let the baseball fly. Sosnoskie held his bat, the pitch slammed into the zone. The umpire signalled the strike. The crowd roared.
Oh, that final cheer was what it was all about. On paper, the Goldeyes' final game didn't mean much, it was just one that had to be played. But for the almost 8,000 fans who squeezed into Shaw Park, spilling onto the grass berm near the field's southwest edge, it was a chance to bid a fond farewell.
For the Fish didn't let up -- not even when Fargo clambered back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by third baseman Matt Jennings. But apparently the Goldeyes weren't about to let their longtime rivals spoil their farewell party. Instead, the home team turned up the heroics, striking back in the bottom of the eigth when they sent three runners home.
The winning push began when outfielder Tyler Graham singled to get on base, then swiped second while Amos Ramon was at the plate; Ramon's ensuing single drove Graham home. Yurendell de Caster struck out, and outfielder Ryan Scoma was put out too, then Fargo reliever Chris Bodishbaugh walked Fish right-fielder Ray Sadler.
He would regret that soon. Casey Haerther singled to score Ramon, and then Luis Alen became a two-out hero for the second time in the game. He'd already done that job on the fourth, when his two-run single gave the Fish the lead. He did it again in the eighth, slamming out a double that scored Sadler, the Fish's sixth run of the game. The winning run.
Besides the fun on the field, the Fish also had some honours to bestow. Scoma, third in the league heading into Monday's game with a .343 batting average, won the Goldeyes' best hitter award; Goldeyes fave and freshly-minted shortstop Josh Mazzola won the trophy for having the most player-of-the-game nods, chosen by the media. Finally, Alen won the fan-voted Player of the Year award -- just before showing why he was deserving.