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Eric Peterson, Published August 02 2012

RedHawks catch fire in July to offset slow start

Fargo

Justin Bieber’s hit “Boyfriend” received heavy postgame play in the RedHawks clubhouse in July.

The song was part of the American Association baseball team’s music mix, which was played after Fargo-Moorhead victories.

“You never get tired of that even though you are listening to the same songs over and over,” said RedHawks rookie right fielder Buddy Sosnoskie.

The RedHawks listened to the Bieber hit

23 times in July as the team posted a sterling 23-5 record during the month.

F-M lost its first game in July and the last two, but won 23 of 25 games in between. That torrid stretch included a 14-game winning streak that tied a club record.

“You come to the ballpark with a lot of energy,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “You come to the ballpark with the confidence that you can (win).”

While not the best month in franchise history (F-M had a 26-1 record in August 2005), this July was a season-changer for

F-M, which at one time this summer was eight games below .500.

The RedHawks had a 21-20 record through the end of June, and were five games out of first place in the North Division. They ended July 19 games above .500 (44-25) to put them in first place in their division by 3½ games.

“Everybody was hot at the right time,” RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase said. “It just happened to be a very good month for us.”

The RedHawks had a .307 team batting average in July with 68 doubles, 10 triples and 28 home runs in 28 games, an average of 3.8 extra-base hits per game.

Sosnoskie hit a team-best .407 in July as he played in 22 games. Penprase was right behind with a .378 batting average for the month, including a .460 on-base percentage. Penprase was also 19-for-20 in stolen-base attempts.

Five different RedHawks had an average better than .320 for the month.

RedHawks center fielder Nic Jackson, who bats third in the F-M order, found his power stroke. Jackson blasted 10 home runs and had 31 RBIs, playing in all 28 games.

“We always had our solid guy in the middle, which was Jackson,” said Penprase, who bats leadoff. “He’s always going to be solid. We just surround him with some guys that can hit.”

The current F-M batting order started to take shape at the end of June when left fielder Jon Gaston, a left-handed power bat, signed back with the team. Gaston started the year with F-M, but his contract was sold to the Chicago White Sox organization during the first week of the season.

Another important addition was third baseman Eric Campbell, who signed in early July. Campbell gave the team a right-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup while also solidifying the infield defense. Right around that time, F-M made Sosnoskie the starting right fielder and moved him into the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

“It seems like our roster and our lineup has a lot of continuity right now,” said Sosnoskie, who has been slowed with a lower-leg injury. “We are all doing our job real well, and going out there and performing when we get the chances.”

The pitching staff also had its best month with a 3.67 ERA in July. F-M had a 4.38 team ERA in May and a 4.07 ERA in June. Five members of the RedHawks bullpen had ERAs below 2.00 in July. Right-handed closer Tom Boleska had a 1.08 ERA for the month, including 10 saves. Left-handed reliever Joe Harris was 1-0 with a 0.61 ERA in July.

“It was all there,” said Simunic, whose team averaged seven runs per game in July. “It was a matter of getting our offense in tune with our pitching.”

The first-place RedHawks start a three-game home series at 7:02 tonight against the Lincoln Saltdogs at Newman Outdoor Field. Simunic has already put that remarkable July run in his rearview mirror.

“We’ve got to move forward,” Simunic said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com