Goldeyes ride strong arm and big bats to win in home opener
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Travis Seabrooke certainly enjoyed this home opener a lot more than the last one. His team did, too.
The 27-year-old Ontario product tossed five strong innings on Friday night as his Winnipeg Goldeyes routed the Lake Country DockHounds 10-4 at Shaw Park. Seabrooke picked up the win, scattering six hits and giving up one earned run, with five strikeouts and a walk.
It was a different story a year ago as the Goldeyes kicked off the 2022 campaign against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks on a cold, blustery and downright miserable night. Seabrooke came on in relief in the eighth inning and was tagged with the loss after surrendering the go-ahead run.
The conditions were a lot better for this one, with a sunny sky, warm temperature and a crowd of 5,736 on hand to soak it all in. Winnipeg improves to 3-4 on the year after playing the first half-dozen on the road. Lake Country falls to 1-5.
Seabrooke was a 2013 fifth round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles who began his career as a starting pitcher, but was converted to a reliever while pitching in High-A in 2017. The lefty from Peterborough has been one of the most reliable bullpen arms since joining the Goldeyes prior to the 2021 season, with 104 combined appearances over the past two years.
With Winnipeg short on proven starters this year, Seabrooke convinced new manager Greg Tagert to give him a shot. His first outing, last week in Gary, was one to forget as Seabrooke was tagged for eight earned runs and 10 hits over four and one-third innings. The second time was the charm. Seabrooke began the game with a three-pitch strikeout of the leadoff hitter, a sign of good things to come.
“It was a good way to start. Just trying my best to put them in swing mode, throw strikes,” Seabrooke said in the clubhouse following the game. “Just be aggressive with them. I think they’re a real aggressive team. It was good to get the first (batter) and have a nice clean inning just to set the tone.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that his teammates came out swinging and staked him to a big early lead. Winnipeg scored five times in the bottom of the first inning, then added four more in the fourth to break the game wide open.
“They did such a good job generating runs. That makes it so much easier, not just for me, but for our whole staff,” said Seabrooke.
Reigning American Association MVP Max Murphy, who is still working his way back after suffering a broken leg during the playoffs last September, had his best game at the plate so far this season. He began the night just 3-for-23 so far through six games, but went 3-for-5 with two singles, double (that might have been a triple if he was back to 100 per cent) and two RBI.
“To his credit, to be able to work back just shows you how important this is to him and his career being here in Winnipeg,” Tagert said of Murphy’s dedication. “It’s going to take a little bit to see the player that we are expecting to see. And that goes for a lot of guys that I’ve never seen play.”
Third baseman Dayson Croes, who entered play with a team-leading .368 average and five RBI, drove in two more. He was also robbed of another base hit when Lake Country shortstop Demetrius Sims made a diving grab of a ground ball, then popped up to make a strong throw which first basemen Marcus Chiu did the splits on in order to catch.
Catcher Hidekel Gonzalez blasted his team-leading third home run of the year, a mammoth shot to left field, while calling a solid game behind the plate.
Outfielder Andrew Shaps, who also dabbles as a relief pitcher, did some damage at the plate with a two-run single. Designated hitter Najee Gaskins had the other RBI courtesy of a sacrifice fly, while Winnipeg also plated a pair of runs courtesy of wild pitches.
It’s fitting that on a night the Goldeyes debuted a mammoth new sandwich at the concession stands — four burger patties, two butterflied hot dogs, bacon, chicken fingers and nacho cheese stacked on a loaf of garlic bread — that they took a big bite out of their opponent.
Goldeyes reliever Brandon Marklund was roughed up for two runs in his one inning of work in the sixth as he battled control issues, with a pair of walks, a wild pitch and a single on his resume. RJ Martinez worked two scoreless innings, while Winnipegger Marc-Andre Habeck gave up a solo home run in the ninth to finish it off.
Winnipeg is still very much in the feeling-out stage of this season, with a new manager and only six returning players from last year’s club that went 53-47 under long-time skipper Rick Forney, who stepped down from the position this past winter to take a job closer to his Maryland-area home.
Tagert, along with all the new players, have big shoes to fill in Winnipeg’s milestone 30th season. The Goldeyes have posted a winning record in 24 of 29 campaigns, making the playoffs in 20 of them and winning four championships along the way.
“For me, it’s going to be continued evaluation, these first couple weeks,” said Tagert.
They’ll try to get back to .500 when they host Lake Country Saturday evening before finishing up the three-game series on Sunday afternoon.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.