Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hot Fish hurler chills Saltdog bats

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ON a chilly night at Shaw Park, Goldeyes pitcher Fabian Williamson was on fire.

Williamson struck out 11 batters in 6.2 innings of work, a season-high for the club, as the Goldeyes (17-6) recorded a 4-0 win over the Lincoln Saltdogs. A crowd of 4,251 saw the Fish extend their winning streak to five games and their lead in first place in the American Association's North Division to five games.

Add one strikeout by reliever Craig James and the team's total of 12 is also a season high. It was Winnipeg's second shutout victory of the season.

The teams will meet again tonight at 7 p.m. when rookie Rich Hawkins (1-0, 6.75) will start for Winnipeg while Lincoln is expected to go with Jino Gonzalez (0-2, 7.43).

"I feel great, man. I don't try to get strikeouts like I did when I was younger, but when you get two strikes on a hitter and then you can throw your off-speed for strikes, that opens up the door and that's what happened today," said Williamson, 23.

"When you have a lead, you kind of just have to get after it and throw strikes and try to keep your team with that right tempo. For the most part, I did. I had a hiccup in the third inning when I walked two guys in a row, but my teammates told me 'just slow down and just make good pitches.' "

While Goldeyes' right-fielder Josh Mazzola had hit three home runs in the previous four games, it was left-fielder Jon Weber's night to go deep. Weber's three-run shot to right gave Winnipeg a 3-0 lead after the first inning.

"It was awesome, man, he (Weber) is going to have some more. It was good to see him get to one, finally," said Williamson of Weber, who is fourth in the AA with a batting average of .384.

Winnipeg's scoring concluded in the eighth when Lincoln reliever D.A. Graham walked in a run with the bases loaded.

While some managers might be sweating the late-game heroics that have seen the Goldeyes win five times in their final at-bat, hold onto last Sunday's 4-3 win over Fargo by virtue of Mazzola's ninth-inning home run and load the bases Monday night in the eighth inning, manager Rick Forney interprets it as a sign his team has no quit in it.

"The secret is they play the whole game," Forney said. "There's some teams that I've seen so far this year, when they're trailing late in the ball game, they kind of mail their at-bats in. It's a take-it-to-the-house-and-we'll-come-get-them-tomorrow kind of attitude. It's not really the way our team plays. We seem to have better at-bats as the game goes on.

"I think it starts with your veteran guys. Whether it's your veteran-classified guys or returning players that have been around here for a while, they understand the expectation of what playing in Winnipeg is like. They play to win every day."

Diamond Dust: Goldeyes pitcher Matt Rusch was named the American Association's pitcher of the week after the 29-year-old posted a 2-0 record and tossed 15 scoreless innings against the Saltdogs and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2012 D2

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