Max Murphy slides home with the first run in the final game of the 2023 Baseball Champions League. It was the only run the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks would need, as they shut out the Caimanes de Barranquilla 8-0. (Photo Courtesy WBSC)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MERIDA, Mexico – For the second day in a row, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks rode a big early inning to a sizable lead against the Caimanes de Barranquilla.
After putting four runs across the plate in the bottom of the second, the RedHawks rode six shutout innings from starter Tyler Grauer, who allowed just four hits and struck out seven while walking none, to capture the 2023 Baseball Championship League title, defeating the Caimanes, who play in the the Liga Beisbol Profesional Colombiano, by the score of 8-0.
“He has a great changeup. Tonight was maybe the best change I’ve ever seen from him,” said Fargo-Moorhead manager Chris Coste. “…That change up was very effective against a team like Columbia. They’re big bats, they swing the bat, and it turns out it was a really good matchup for Tyler. The hope was three, maybe four innings. We had it kind of lined up, and so for him to go six shutout was just, that was incredible.”
Coste said that Grauer had battled back trouble all season with the Red Hawks, and wasn’t sure what he’d get out of the Indiana State product.
But Grauer put in time preparing, getting treatment in the training room, doing everything he could to be healthy and ready to perform, and ready he was.
“I had two different change ups today. I had one with depth and one with some run. I could throw it in any count and that’s the name of the game,” Grauer said in front of the third base dugout as the RedHawks celebrated on the field. “if you can throw any off speed in any situation and lead any time of the game, it’s pretty important. Especially as a low-velocity guy like myself.”
Roy Morales’ two-run signle in the second got the RedHawks out to a 3-0 lead, and then Morales scored from second on Dayson Croes’ RBI single.
Morales, who was named the 2023 Baseball Champions League MVP, had nine hits, three walks and four RBI and batted .600 over 15 at-bats at the tournament.
Earlier in the week, Coste told World Baseball Network that he thought Morales is a player who would be an immediate contributor on a Major League team. Morales, who will be playing for the Cangrejeros de Santurce in the Liga Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter, appreciated the opportunities that the Baseball Champions League provided.
“I mean I wish I could make it to the big leagues, right? But Indy ball, you can see the level of indy ball is really good right now,” Morales said. “And the opportunity to play down here in Mexico is going to be huge for us too right now. That’s why we came here to play so a lot of scouts can see us here playing, right? And we can have more chance to get more jobs down here.”
Unlike Saturday night, where the Caimanes rapped 10 hits and got 11 more runners on base with walks, manager Chris Coste’s squad from the American Association didn’t have to gut out innings where the Caimanes threatened to score.
Barranquilla only got two runners to scoring position, one in the top of the fifth and one in the eighth, and were unable to drive them in.
For Coste, as big a proponent of independent baseball as there is, the title is meaningful.
“The amount of good players in our league, we really felt we needed to represent our league. Obviously we were in a Red Hawks uniform, but we’re really representing our league,” Coste, who played his first four professional seasons for the RedHawks when they were in the Northern League, said.
“That’s what it’s so much about because I was originally a member of this league way back when. So for me to be the first manager to be able to do this, I think it’s pretty fitting, and I’m pretty ecstatic I get to be the first man to be a part of this.”