The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks celebrate a home run by Chris Herrmann in their 10-6 win against the Caimanes de Barranquilla. (Photo Courtesy WBSC)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MERIDA, Mexico – After their opener on Thursday at the 2023 Baseball Champions League against the Alazanes de Granma, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste noted that his team didn’t capitalize on their chances, especially when they had the bases loaded in the top of the first inning.
On Saturday, facing the Caimanes de Barranquilla loaded the bases again in the first and cashed in.
After sending 11 men to the plate and putting eight runs on the board in the bottom half of the first, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks left little doubt about the outcome of the early game on the third day of round robin play at the 2023 Baseball Champions League. They held on to win a game they lead 9-0 at one point by the score of 10-6, earning a spot in Saturday’s championship game at Parque Kukulcan Alamo.
“We had such an amazing game last night so the quick turnaround we had to just get after it,” RedHawks manager Chris Coste said following the game. “So first inning was obviously the big thing and then we were able to make some really good pitches throughout some of those middle innings to prevent them from big damage.
The RedHawks chased Caimanes starter Santiago Florez after just two-thirds of an inning after he loaded the bases, issuing a walk to Leobaldo Pina, then walked Fargo-Moorhead’s Chris Herrmann to put the RedHawks up 2-0.
Florez’ replacement, Carlos Ocampo, didn’t fare much better, giving up an RBI single to Alec Olund and then hitting Fargo-Moorhead’s ninth batter of the inning, Sam Dexter, with a pitch to make it 4-0.
When leadoff man Dillon Thomas came to the dish for the second, time, he ripped a bases-clearing double off the right-field wall, and the RedHawks had a 7-0 lead, and then Roy Morales hit an RBI single to make it 8-0.
In the first at-bat, Thomas said Ocampo “just made a good pitch 3-2. And I mean, to be honest, first guy in the game, I wasn’t really expecting a 3-2 slider. That’s a risky move. But I mean, he made a good pitch. He executed it.”
Of the double, Thomas said he was “just looking for a good pitch to hit out over the middle of the plate. I got one with two strikes and just didn’t try to do too much, put a good swing on it and it worked out.”
Chris Herrmann’s third-inning solo homer, a towering shot that hit the nearly 80-foot high Coca Cola sign behind the visitor’s bullpen, made it 9-0.
But the Caimanes still had some bite left, and when the Fargo-Moorhead pitchers struggled, the Colombians had their opportunities. Despite cracking 11 hits and getting nine walks in the game, they were only able to muster six runs.
Barranquilla got on the board in the top of the fourth when Pabel Manzanero hit a three-run homer to right field, and they added two more in the fifth on consecutive RBI singles from Demetrius Sims and Carlos Arroyo to make it a 9-5 ballgame.
“That makes manager and the pitching coach — and I’m both of those guys — nervous, when we score a lot of runs, give up 11 hits and we walk 10,” Coste said. “That tells you how our pitchers, when they had to make a pitch, they did. Because 11 hits and 10 walks, they should have scored 12 to 15, but our pitchers did a good job of limiting the damage.”
For Saturday’s championship game, Coste is leaning towards starting Tyler Grauer, a left-hander out of Indiana State who has spent the last three seasons with the RedHawks.
“That’s kind of why he was on this roster. If he wasn’t needed early, he would potentially start a championship game so it could be Tyler Grauer, but we’ll see,” Coste said. “We’ll come and watch the game tonight, have some fun, have a hamburguesa con queso… and maybe some papas.”
The RedHawks opponent has yet to be determined. If the Alazanes de Granma wins Saturday’s nightcap, the WBSC’s Team Quality Balance formula, which is a calculation based upon run differential, would be used to decide whether the Alazanes or the Caimanes face the RedHawks on Saturday night.