Winnipeg Goldeyes starter Matt Rusch said the team wanted to win the final game of the season and beat the playoff bound Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
Monday night in front of 7,954 spectators at Shaw Park, it was mission accomplished. As Rusch went 6 1/3 innings, allowing only two runs on seven scattered hits, the Goldeyes batters pounded out 11 hits and beat the RedHawks 6-5 to win the final game of the 2013 season. With the victory, the Goldeyes took the final series of the year from Fargo and improved to 56-44 on the season, not good enough to make the playoffs, but good enough to have the fourth best percentage in the league and finish 2013 with a better record (56-44) that the club had in 2012 (55-45) when it won the American Association championship.
“None of these guys on this team were going to quit,” said Rusch on the Shaw TV post-game show. “We knew we weren't going to the playoffs, but we wanted to win the final game of the season and beat Fargo in the final series. We wanted to do it for ourselves, the organization and all those great fans.”
Thanks in no small way to Rusch's effort, the Goldeyes got the job done. Fargo opened the scoring in the third with a run on a wild pitch, but Winnipeg answered with three in the bottom of the fourth.
The team's leading hitter, Ryan Scoma, singled and went to third on a double by Ray Sadler. Then both Scoma and Sadler scored on a single by Luis Alen. After Alen went to second on a wild pitch, he came home on an RBI single by Fehlandt Lentini.
After Fargo scored a run in the fifth and another in the eighth to tie it, the Goldeyes put up three in the bottom of the eighth, as Tyler Graham led off with a bunt single, stole second and scored on a single by Amos Ramon. With two out, Sadler walked and then Ramon scored from second on a single by Casey Haerther and Sadler scored on a double by Luis Alen.
It got tense in the ninth as Fargo scored twice and had runners on first ad second with two out, but Chris Kissock struck out Buddy Sosnoskie to end the game and the season.
Brendan Lafferty, making his league-high 53rd appearance, picked up the win (5-2, 3.49 ERA) while Kissock (2.70) notched his third save. Together, Kissock and Lafferty made 103 appearances this season, more than any other bullpen duo in the American Association. Former Goldeyes reliever Chris Bodishbaugh (3-2, 3.99 ERA) took the loss for Fargo. Forney used seven pitchers and all of his position players in the finale, which meant that Josh Mazzola played in all 100 games this season.
Luis Alen was the star of the game, going three-for-four with a run scored and three driven in. He finished the season with a .315 batting average, second on the team to Ryan Scoma (.341), while playing 93 of 100 games at catcher.
On Fan Appreciation Night, Forney spoke to the crowd after the game. “You guys are the best fans anywhere,” said Forney. “Some of the players on this team might not have known anything about Winnipeg when they signed here, but they know now. They know the Goldeyes have the best fans in the game. “You people might not know it, but you're a selling point for me when I go out and try to sign players. We're very lucky to be able to play in front of fans who are as supportive and enthusiastic as you guys.”