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Published September 18 2010

RedHawks fly solo: F-M rides another outstanding pitching performance to a Northern League title

Back. To. Back. T.J. Stanton tossed a complete-game one-hitter with 14 strikeouts to lead the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks to their second consecutive Northern League championship with a 3-0 victory against Kansas City before 2,488 fans on a chilly Friday at Newman Outdoor Field.

“I told myself right off the bat that it’s got to be on from pitch one,” Stanton said. “Everybody was locked in. You could see it in everybody’s eyes, everybody was locked in.”

None more locked in than Stanton.

He struck out the first eight batters to set the tone for the RedHawks.

Jimmy Mojica finally put the ball in play for the T-Bones in the top of the third, but a great defensive play by RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase deep in the hole ended the inning.

A Jacob Blackwood double with two out in the sixth ended Stanton’s bid for a no-hitter.

It was a bummer for a crowd that was hanging on every pitch and gave Stanton a healthy ovation following Blackwood’s hit.

But Stanton’s performance, while not a no-no, was about as dominant as they come.

His 90 mph fastball mixed perfectly with breaking pitches and changeups to create a perfect storm.

Well, almost perfect.

It was another in a long line of solid outings for Fargo-Moorhead starters this season.

However, it wasn’t necessarily indicative of Stanton’s season as a starter.

The veteran right-hander, who has six years of independent baseball under his belt, blossomed into a steady and reliable presence out of the bullpen in his two years with Fargo-Moorhead.

He was 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 32 games in his first season with the team. In the playoffs last year, Stanton finished 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in four relief appearances.

He played a dual role as a starter and reliever this year.

Stanton finished the regular season 4-5 with a 4.17 ERA in 25 appearances, including 15 starts.

“Unbelievable,” said RedHawks first baseman Jesse Hoorelbeke, who was named the MVP of the Northern League finals after hitting .500 with two homers and eight RBIs in three games against the T-Bones in the championship series. “I’ve never seen anything like that in the biggest game of the year. I was talking with the umpire and the (T-Bones) first-base coach. We’ve never seen anything like that before. And I’ve been playing quite awhile.”

Stanton was one of several key contributors on the mound for the best pitching staff in the Northern League.

Jake Laber, Scott Fogelson and Matt Mossey provided solid starts all year long.

When one of the Big Three was off, one of the others stepped in with a good game to stave off any prolonged slumps.

That reliability helped take pressure off the bullpen.

And Casey Hoorelbeke, who this week was named the NL’s reliever of the year, was as lights out as it gets as a set up man.

Although he slumped in the postseason, Hoorelbeke was 10-5 with a league-leading 1.84 ERA in a league-high 52 games.

The RedHawks led the league with a 4.21 ERA as a team.

“T.J. Stanton was fantastic. I have never seen him pitch like that before,” T-Bones manager Tim Doherty said. “He was lights out. You could say he pitched the game of his life. He was basically challenging us with his fastball. He came at us. Plus, there were not too many mistakes that he made.”

The RedHawks stranded a runner at second in the first two innings of Game 3.

Jeremiah Piepkorn drilled a two-run double off the wall in left with the bases loaded and two-out to put the RedHawks ahead 2-0 in the third.

Kansas City third baseman Rico Washington opened the door for F-M’s big inning with an error on a Jesse Hoorelbeke grounder that could have been the final out of the inning.

Eric Campbell opened the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run to make the score 3-0.

“This was such a low maintenance group of guys,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “I didn’t even have to really say much to them. I didn’t give one signal all year. I didn’t even give a hit-and-run, I didn’t do anything. I watched them play and enjoyed it just like the fans.”

The RedHawks were a perfect 6-0 in the postseason, capturing sweeps against Gary SouthShore and the T-Bones.

The RedHawks have earned five titles – all under Simunic – since entering the league in 1996. F-M previously won championships in 1998, 2003, 2006 and 2009.

It’s the third time since the Northern League re-emerged in 1993 that a team has won back-to-back titles. St. Paul did it in 1995-96, and New Jersey won in 2001-02.

No team has won three in a row since the league’s 1993 re-launch.

“(Stanton) threw a hell of a ballgame. He rose to the occasion in the playoffs,” said Kansas City starter Andrew Kruse, who allowed eight hits and struck out 10 in eight innings. “Fargo is a hell of baseball team. They have one of the better lineups in the league, that’s for sure.”

REDHAWKS KANSAS CITY

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Coles rf 4 1 2 0 Simon cf 4 0 0 0

Jcksn cf 4 0 0 0 Blckwd 2b 4 0 1 0

Cmpbll 3b 3 2 2 1 Mrtnz 1b 3 0 0 0

Hrlbke 1b 4 0 1 0 Sadler rf 3 0 0 0

Ppkrn lf 4 0 2 2 Fasno dh 3 0 0 0

Cox dh 3 0 0 0 Wshgtn 3b 3 0 0 0

Cota 2b 4 0 1 0 Hrndz c 2 0 0 0

Rick c 3 0 0 0 White lf 3 0 0 0

Pnprs ss 3 0 0 0 Mojica ss 3 0 0 0

Totals 29 3 8 3 Totals 26 0 1 0

RedHawks 000 000 000–0 1 1

Kansas City 002 010 00x–3 8 0

E–Washington (1). 2b–Blackwood (4), Campbell (2), Piepkorn (2), HR–Campbell (2). LOB–Redhawks 7, Kansas 3.

REDHAWKS

IP H R ER BB SO

Stanton, W 9 1 0 0 1 14

KANSAS CITY

IP H R ER BB SO

Cruse, L 8 8 3 2 0 10

Umpires–Home: Steve Linton. First: Neil Turner. Third: Hank Himmamen. Time–2:52. A–.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com