Winnipeg Goldeyes Champs Again!
WINNIPEG, MB – Manager Rick Forney called the 2017 edition of the Winnipeg Goldeyes “the best team I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
On Wednesday night, in front of 6,363 spectators at Shaw Park in downtown Winnipeg, the Goldeyes proved their manager’s assessment beyond a shadow of any doubt.
With nine runs in the second inning, a cycle from Shawn Pleffner – that’s a home run, a triple a double and a single – home runs by Pleffner, David Bergin and Mason Katz and a brilliant pitching performance by starter Edwin Carl and relievers Mitchell Lambson and Victor Capellan, the Goldeyes demolished the Wichita Wingnuts 18-2 to claim the deciding game of the best-of-five American Association championship series.
It was the second straight league championship for the Goldeyes – the first back-to-back in franchise history – and the third in six years. It was also the fourth title in franchise history – 1994 (Northern League), 2012, 2016 and 2017.
I just want to thank the fans for coming out,” said the American Association’s Most Outstanding Player, Josh Romanski. “That’s the best crowd I’ve ever played in front of and to do it for a championship, was special. For the guys to come out and play the way they did for the fans of Winnipeg, man this city’s just awesome. The last two years here in Winnipeg have been the best two years of my career and playing here, man I just love every minute of it. I want to thank every single fan, ‘cause they were just awesome tonight.”
The night was special. The crowd was simply outstanding and when the Goldeyes put up a nine-spot in the second inning, the celebration began early. From that point on, they were just waiting to see the Goldeyes raise the league championship trophy.
With the score tied 0-0 in the bottom of the second, Pleffner led off with a single and then Bergin singled. Wes Darvill laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to send Pleffner to third and Bergin to second and then catcher Mason Katz doubled home both base runners to give Winnipeg a 2-0 lead. That’s when the bubble burst for starter Tim Brown and the Wingnuts.
Andrew Sohn singled to drive home Katz, Casey Turgeon singled to put runners on first and second and then David Rohm singled home Sohn. Romanski walked and the Reggie Abercrombie singled home Turgeon and Rohm. That made it 6-0 but the Goldeyes weren’t done.
Pleffner, who had already singled and scored, hit a line drive opposite field three-run homer over the leftfield wall to make it 9-0 and the Wingnuts were done. They played the rest of the game like a team ready to hop on the bus and go home.
The Goldeyes scored five more in the fourth to make it 14-0, added a run in the sixth to make it 15-0 and then, after Wichita scored twice in the seventh, added three more in the eighth to make it 18-2. In the eighth, Pleffner led off with a triple to become one of only a handful of Goldeyes to hit for the cycle. Darvill then singled home Pleffner to record at least one hit in all nine Goldeyes playoff games. And then Katz hit a two-run homer to put an explanation point on the proceedings.
Carl (2-0, 2.35 ERA) earned the win by allowing only two earned runs on five scattered hits in 6.1 innings. Carl’s five postseason wins over the last two years surpassed manager Rick Forney for the Goldeyes’ franchise record.
“When we won in 2012, we didn’t have any business being in the finals,” said Forney, looking back on the last six seasons. “We were probably the fourth best team in the playoffs, but we just got hot at the right time. In 2016, we were pretty good and we played really well at the right time, but this year, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best team we’ve had in a long time. This was the best team in the league. I don’t know if they believed it, but I believed it. I just kept letting them go out there and play, just kept writing their names in the lineup every day and they did it.
“It was unbelievable to win in front of this crowd. We were fortunate enough to win last year but we were celebrating in Wichita. I told Sam (owner Katz), that the only thing that could make this better is if we were to win this thing at home. I didn’t believe we’d do it again the very next year, it’s really hard to make the playoffs in this league, but we did it. Somebody’s looking down on us. To do it in front of these fans, it’s like Christmas morning, baby!”
The Goldeyes outhit Wichita 18-6. Pleffner (.297) was tremendous. He went four-for-five with four runs scored and five driven in. Abercrombie (.244) went two-for-four with three runs scored and three RBI; Bergin (.300) went three-for-four with two runs and scored three driven in; Katz (.207) went two-for-five with two runs scored and four RBI; while Turgeon (.275) and Rohm each had two hits. Rohm finished the playoffs hitting .390 while Wes Darvill, who went one-for-four with a run scored and an RBI, finished at .371.
Forney was asked what made this team the best in his time with the Goldeyes. His answer was simple.
“Talent,” he said bluntly. “But they’re also grinders, man. They’re warriors. They play hard every night, win or lose, and we’ll play to that last out is recorded. This is just a really good, solid baseball team.”
And now they’ve taken their rightful place as American Association champions.
Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo – Dan LeMoal