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Five Homeruns Powers RedHawks to Series Split

The Joplin Blasters entered the American Association All-Star break with a defeat on Sunday evening, dropping the final game of a four-game series, 11-7, to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The Blasters never led in the series finale, settling for a split with the visitors.

Fargo struck first in the top of the second inning, needing just one hit to take the lead. League RBI leader Josh Mazzola drew a leadoff walk, and advanced to second base on an errant pickoff throw. The next hitter, K.D. Kang singled to right field, which allowed Mazzola to score and give the visiting RedHawks a 1-0 lead.

A pair of home runs pushed the RedHawk lead to three runs in the next inning. Joplin starter Wander Perez, who was charged with his first loss of the season, retired the first two hitters of the inning. However, Ryan Pineda and Keury De La Cruz belted back-to-back home runs for Fargo, extending Fargo's advantage to 3-0.

De La Cruz was not finished at the plate, though. The designated hitter stepped back in during the top of the fifth inning, and hit a two-run homer to score Pineda, who had started the inning with a walk. After De La Cruz's second home run of the game, the Blasters were faced with a 5-0 deficit.

Kes Carter added to Fargo's lead in the top of the sixth. Dustin Geiger had started with the frame with a single, and he stood on second with two outs. Carter, the Fargo leadoff hitter, doubled into left field, stretching the Fargo edge to six runs, 6-0.

The Blasters finally answered in the bottom of sixth, surging to within two runs with a four-spot. Joplin loaded the bases on walks to Sean Smith and Mitch Glasser, as well as a single by Alex Polston. With the bases loaded and one out, veteran Geraldo Valentin singled into left field for two runs. Edwin Gomez followed with an RBI groundout, and Brandon Tierney singled in a run, one of three hits on the day for the third inning. The run scoring came against starter Tyler Alexander, who was the winning pitcher for Fargo.

Unfortunately for the Blasters, the RedHawks responded with a surge of their own that put the game out of reach. De La Cruz singled to start the seventh inning, and proceeded to steal second base. De La Cruz scored when Mazzola singled and the ensuing throw was tossed into right field. Kang followed with a single that plated Mazzola. The final three runs of the game for the RedHawks came on the fourth and fifth homers of the game. Mike Gilmartin and Luke Bailey's back-to-back home runs gave the RedHawks an 11-4 lead.

Smith capped a 2-for-3 outing in the bottom of the seventh with his fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot that also scored KC Huth. The Blasters also scored in the bottom of the eighth, as a double play with the bases loaded by Mark Krueger pushed Edwin Gomez across the plate.

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