Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Trophy Fish clinch North Division
Take both ends of doubleheader to bring champagne out at Shaw Park
A strikeout and a mighty fist pump from Nick Hernandez signalled a North Division championship for the Winnipeg Goldeyes after 6-2 and 2-0 wins over the Sioux Falls Canaries Friday.
And, if the locker-room antics lately are any indication, cue the champagne showers and spontaneous selfies.
The Fish played nearly five hours and 14 innings of baseball during the American Association doubleheader action, and they found a way to outlast their opponents.
The Goldeyes got two solid outings from starting pitchers Ryan Bollinger and Hernandez. In six doubleheaders this season, the Fish have swept four and on Friday, to clinch, they had to win both again.
Game 1 was handled by newly-added starter Bollinger. After giving up two quick runs in the first inning, Bollinger took a hard combacker off the leg, which was followed by a visit from the team trainer and manager Rick Forney.
But the 23-year-old rookie, in his second start as a member of the Fish, shook it off and threw well enough to pick up his second straight win. Bollinger hurled five innings, giving up eight hits and three runs.
"It's exciting. It wasn't super nerve racking because we knew we had a little bit of cushion here," Tyler Kuhn said after the on-field celebration. "But we obviously wanted to do this at home, we wanted to make sure we won and clinch the playoffs here at home."
The Goldeyes held a healthy lead over the second-place St. Paul Saints entering Friday's action.
Casey Haerther loaded the bases in the bottom of the first after he slapped a shot just out of the reach of the Canaries' leaping second baseman. With one out, Reggie Abercrombie hit a ground ball to the second baseman, who got the out at second, but Blackwood scored on the play.
The Fish added the tying run after Donnie Webb hit a pop fly over the mound, but miscommunication between the infielders let the ball drop, allowing Kuhn to score from third. Then Josh Mazzola drove home Abercrombie from third base to take the lead 3-2. The Fish added two more in the second and a solo bomb from Kuhn in the fourth topped off the win.
So with the first win in the books, the excitement mounted in the second game, with every inning and every Hernandez strikeout. Fans only saw a small spark of offence from the Fish, who picked up two runs in the first with an RBIs from Kuhn and Haerther.
And southpaw Hernandez closed the door, posting nothing but zeros on the scoreboard. Hernandez tossed a complete-game shutout, picking up his team-high 11th win of the season.
"Anybody in our clubhouse could have been that guy (the hero). Those guys have worked extremely hard all year, but today it just happened to be my day," Hernandez said.
"I was happy that the rotation fell this way and I definitely wanted to give my team a performance like that today..."
"Going into the second game we knew what we had to do. It was all business. You know, we like to joke around and mess around quite a bit, but we knew what we had to do, we had business to take care of. I knew if I gave my team a good performance we were going to win today."
Bring on the playoffs at Shaw Park.
It's not yet been determined who the Goldeyes will face.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2014 C5
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