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Goldeyes Strikeout RedHawks, 5-2

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The Winnipeg Goldeyes will open the 2012 American Association playoffs in Fargo on Wednesday night. And there is nothing better than beating the RedHawks to get there.

On Friday night, after a 5-2 loss to Sioux City, Goldeyes manager Rick Forney said he needed a big game from starter Matt Rusch. Saturday night at Shaw Park, he got it.

Rusch pitched seven innings, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out 13 RedHawks as the Fish beat their archrivals from Fargo-Moorhead 5-1 to clinch the American Association Wild Card spot.

Josh Mazzola went two-for-four with two huge RBI in the seventh inning while Luis Alen went three-for-three with a walk, two doubles and a run scored.

The Goldeyes snapped a three-game losing streak, improved to 55-43 on the campaign and won the first game of a three-game season-ending series with Fargo.

“I had our best guy pitching tonight and he sure stepped up,” said Goldeyes manager Rick Forney. “He did what he did in St. Paul when we were in a desperate situation. He was awesome.”

Rusch was clearly the big story. The Goldeyes starter picked up his 10th win of the season and lowered his earned run average to a league-leading 2.40. He also took over the league lead in strikeouts with 113.

“It was a long road to get here and I said at the start of the season that this would be a long haul and we knew we’d finish at home. So here we are and we have some more baseball to play this week,” said Rusch with a smile. “It was one of my best nights of the season so it feels really good.”

The Goldeyes opened the scoring in the fourth as Mazzola singled, Alen singled and then Mike Coles singled to drive home Mazzola and send Alen to third. Kyle Day then drove home Alen with a sacrifice fly.

In the seventh, after Fargo’s Eric Campbell had homered to cut the Goldeyes lead to 2-1, Amos Ramon led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Price Kendall. Then Chris Roberson walked, Yurendall de Caster walked to load the bases and Ramon scored on a sacrifice fly by Barbaro Canizares. That’s when Mazzola came up and hit a seeing-eye single through the middle to drive home Roberson and de Caster and give the Goldeyes a 5-1 advantage.

“I’m glad the fans stuck with us and supported us and were able to watch a good baseball game tonight,” said Forney. “I know they’ll get to see some more good baseball in the playoffs.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys. In the second game of the year, we suffered our first serious injury and these guys have been banged up all season. They’ve earned the right to play some extra baseball this year.”

Rusch (10-4, 2.40 ERA) got the win for Winnipeg while Fargo starter Alex Caldera (10-4, 3.50 ERA) suffered the loss. Brian Beuning got the final six outs for the Fish. He struck out the side in the eighth.

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