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Forum staff reports, Published September 13 2009

Northern League baseball: F-M RedHawks earn fourth league championship

GARY, Ind. – The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks earned their fourth Northern League championship Saturday at U.S. Steel Yard.

Nic Jackson went 3-for-4 and Ruben Salazar added three RBIs to spark the RedHawks to a 7-3 victory against Gary SouthShore before 2,042 fans.

The RedHawks won the best-of-5 championship series 3-1.

“It’s good for the franchise because the franchise wanted it and needed it,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “We weren’t intimidated with this group. We came in here and played pretty solid baseball.”

The RedHawks scored two runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to build a 6-2 lead.

Rookie reliever Jeremy Hauer, who was named the championship series MVP, helped protect that lead. He pitched three scoreless innings, giving up just two hits, walking one and striking out one.

For the series, Hauer allowed two earned runs and struck out seven in eight innings.

“We got really good pitching, that’s for sure, and we came up with some big hits,” said RedHawks third baseman Jeremiah Piepkorn. “We were able to get big hits when we needed them and play good defense behind our pitchers.”

Piepkorn was 1-for-4 with an RBI in the deciding game. Piepkorn led the league in batting with a .339 average in the regular season.

“I really enjoyed watching Jeremiah Piepkorn play,” Simunic said. “I just totally took everything he did this year in. He’s a guy that could go 96 games. He could go another 100 games and it wouldn’t faze him one bit. That’s how much he loves to play baseball.”

Simunic also liked what he saw from Jackson, at the plate and in the field.

“I thought Nic Jackson was just a quiet leader who just came out every day and gave you the best he could give you,” Simunic said.

Mike Coles and Ruben Salazar drew back-to-back, bases-loaded walks to stake the RedHawks to a 4-2 lead in the fifth.

The team never trailed from there.

The RedHawks outhit the RailCats 45-26 in the title series, including 9-8 in the deciding Game 4.

“The group that Doug assembled, there’s a whole bunch of different characters on this team … but when it came down to it at the end of the day, we were able to play together as a team,” Piepkorn said.