Winnipeg Goldeyes Walk To Final
WINNIPEG, MB – The Winnipeg Goldeyes have reached the American Association final for the second straight year. Starting Wednesday, Winnipeg will have a chance to win its second straight league title.
But on Sunday afternoon at Shaw Park, they sure took a long, winding road to get there. In fact, escaping the never-say-die Lincoln Saltdogs was a true test. In the end, the Goldeyes scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth – both rather unconventionally – as the Fish beat Lincoln 10-9 to win the best-of-five semifinal 3-1.
Starting on Wednesday, the Goldeyes will meet the Wichita Wingnuts for the league title.
The Goldeyes took a 4-0 lead in the second, fell behind 5-4 in the fifth, jumped out to an 8-5 lead with four more runs in the sixth, fell behind 9-8 after Lincoln scored one in the eighth and three in the ninth and then won it when Saltdogs reliever Michael Wagner walked in the tying run and the winning run — on eight straight pitches out of the strike zone.
Playing in front of a crowd of 3,527 in downtown Winnipeg, looked like they had this one in the bag after David Bergin hit a two-run homer in the second to help give Winnipeg a 4-0 lead. But Lincoln never gave up and when the Saltdogs scored three in the top of the ninth off Goldeyes closer Ryan Chaffee to take a 9-8 lead, it looked as if they might force a fifth and deciding game on Monday night.
But the Goldeyes never quit either.
In the bottom of the ninth, Shawn Pleffner walked to lead off and then Bergin ripped a single to left. Jordan Ebert came in to run for Bergin, but as things turned out, he didn’t have to do much running.
Wes Darvill laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to send Pleffner to third and Ebert to second and Lincoln manager Bobby Brown, a former Goldeyes outfield and hitting star, elected to walk Mason Katz to face No. 9 hitter Andrew Sohn. Wagner proceeded to walk Sohn on four straight pitches to send Pleffner home with the tying run and then he walked Casey Turgeon on four straight pitches and Ebert scored the winning run.
Chaffee (1-0, 6.00 ERA) blew the save but got credit for the win. He allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits in the top of the ninth. Starter Kevin McGovern, staked to a 4-0 lead, lasted only four innings, allowing four runs on four hits. Wagner (o-1, 54.05 ERA), who gave up both runs in the bottom of the ninth suffered the loss.
With the wind bowing out over the leftfield wall, Lincoln hit four home runs as Christian Ibarra, Joe Robbins, Curt Smith and Nathaniel Maggio all connected off Goldeyes pitching.
“It was a tough day to pitch with the wind,” Goldeyes’ manager Rick Forney told the CJNU post-game show. “You leave something up, and people will hit it. Credit Lincoln, they fought back with one of our better guys on the mound. It wasn’t looking good there for a while, but our club has been playing for 27 outs all year, and they showed it again today.”
The Goldeyes outhit Lincoln 14-11 and clearly Bergin (.294) was the star. The Goldeyes DH went three-for five with a two-run homer and a two-run double. He scored a run and drive in four. David Rohm (.467) had three more hits (seven in the two games in Winnipeg), scored a run and drove in two; Pleffner (,385) went two-for-four with two runs scored; Darvill (.583) went two-for-four; Turgeon (.188) went one-for-four, scored a run and drove one in; Josh Romanski (.313) went one-for-five with a run scored; and Sohn (.250) went one-for-three with run scored and an RBI.
The Goldeyes and Wichita will open the American Association championship season on Wednesday night at Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. All the action can be heard locally on 93.7 FM CJNU.
The Goldeyes will play host Game Three of the Championship Series on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 6:05 p.m. The Goldeyes will also play host to the “if necessary” games. Game 4 is slated for Sunday, Sept. 17 at 4:05 p.m. and Game 5 on Monday, Sept. 18, at 7:05 p.m.
Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo – Dan LeMoal