The Winnipeg Goldeyes will have a chance to repeat as American Association champions after a come from behind victory in Game 4 Sunday evening against the Lincoln Saltdogs at Shaw Park in Winnipeg. The hometown Goldeyes had trailed 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth after relinquishing a 2-run lead in the top half of the inning, but, as they have done many times this year, the team rallied back to take the win in a walk-off. This win eliminated the Saltdogs and advanced the Goldeyes, after they won the series 3 games to 1.
As was the story of Saturday’s Game 3, the Fish came firing out of the gates. After Winnipeg starter Kevin McGovern and Lincoln starter Seth Webster kept the game scoreless through the first inning, the Goldeyes took the lead in the bottom of the second. Reggie Abercrombie used his speed to get to first base and earned an infield single. Regular season batting champion Shawn Pleffner then singled home Abercrombie. With Pleffner on base, Goldeyes regular season home run king David Bergin hammered another ball out of the park, this one a two-run shot that put the Goldeyes up 3-0. After watching Bergin homer off of Goldeye pitchers earlier in his career, it was a pleasant sight for the Goldeyes and their fans to see Bergin scoring some runs for their team. Outfielder David Rohm piled it on later in the inning, with an RBI single that made it 4-0.
A three-run home run in the third would pull Lincoln within one in the third, and another home run would tie it in the fourth inning. The Saltdogs grabbed the lead in the fifth inning when centerfielder Joe Robbins hit yet another home run for Lincoln, his second and the Saltdogs third of the game. This put Lincoln ahead 5-4 at the game’s midway point.
In the home half of the fifth, a single and an error put runners on the corners with no outs for the Goldeyes. Rohm earned his second RBI of the game with a single that scored Andrew Sohn from third and advanced Casey Turgeon from first to second, which tied the game up again. 2017 American Association Player of the Year Josh Romanski then loaded the bases with a base hit. A sacrifice fly put the Fish out in front, and a David Bergin double expanded that lead to 8-5. The Saltdogs would cut into this lead in the seventh, with their fourth home run of the game cutting the Goldeye’s lead to 8-6.
With their season on the line in the top of nine, the Saltdogs fought back from an 8-6 deficit, eventually taking the lead. Nathaniel Maggio kickstarted the comeback with a solo shot off of Goldeye’s closer Ryan Chaffee. Chaffee secured the next two outs, but the Saltdogs, onto their final out of the season, clawed out a few baserunners. Joe Robbins drew a walk, and later advanced to second base on a wild pitch charged to Chaffee. This put the tying run in scoring position. Robbins scored on a Cesar Valera double during the next at-bat, tying the baseball game up at 8. Curt Smith was then intentionally walked after going for 3-for-4 at the plate with a home run. Following this, an error charged to Goldeyes shortstop Andrew Sohn allowed Randolph Oduber to reach base and Valera to score, giving Lincoln a 9-8 lead.
It was then the Goldeyes turn to play catch up. Things got off to a good start when Saltdog’s closer Michael Wagner issued a leadoff walk to Shawn Pleffner. David Bergin had another hit during the next at-bat to give the Goldeyes first and second and nobody out. Second baseman Jordan Ebert came in to pinch run for Bergin. Canadian Wes Darvill laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners into scoring position. Next up was the versatile Mason Katz, and while Lincoln considered pitching to him, they ultimately decided to intentionally walk him, which loaded the bases but made a potential game-ending double play more likely. Unfortunately for the Saltdogs, Wagner threw four straight balls to Andrew Sohn, and Lincoln’s third walk of the inning forced home the tying run. Wagner would then fall behind 3-0 to Casey Turgeon, after throwing his eleventh straight ball of the inning. With their season one poor pitch away from ending, the Saltdogs sent in J.R. Bunda during the middle of the at-bat. Bunda’s only pitch was low and called a ball, and the Goldeyes advanced to the American Association Championship with a series-clinching walk.
The Championship final will feature a rematch from last year’s final, as the Wichita Wingnuts will try to get revenge on the Winnipeg Goldeyes after the Fish won last year’s championship in five games. The Goldeyes have home-field advantage in the five game series.
Both teams match up well with each other. Each team has clutch hitting, with both speed and power throughout each lineup. The starting pitchers are terrific through the rotation and each bullpen is full of steady arms.
The series begins at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday in Wichita, followed by Game 2 on Thursday night at 7:05. Charle Rosario, who played stellar in Game 3 against Lincoln starts for the Goldeyes on Wednesday, and the electric Edwin Carl will take the mound in Game 2 for his first start of the playoffs. The series will then shift to Winnipeg for the remaining games, with the championship being awarded at Shaw Park. Game 3 goes Saturday at 6:05 p.m. If necessary, Game 4 will be played Sunday at 4:05 p.m. and the decisive Game 5 will be played at Shaw Park on Monday, beginning at 7:05 p.m.
The Goldeyes won the American Association Championship twice against Wichita, in 2012 and last year. Both titles were claimed in Wichita. This year, the Goldeyes have a chance to win the championship in front of their fans here in Winnipeg.