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Eric Peterson, Published May 05 2013

Penprase back from Australia baseball trip and ready to help RedHawks

Fargo - Zach Penprase spent his winter playing pro baseball in Australia, returning with a special bat.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks shortstop brought home a cricket bat, a hobby he that picked up while playing baseball Down Under.

“We played cricket every day,” said Penprase, who played for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League. “Maybe I can get someone to play with me here.”

While his experience in Australia was new, he’s returning to a familiar situation. Penprase is slated to be the starting RedHawks shortstop for a sixth season. The RedHawks open their exhibition season at 7 tonight in Winnipeg.

“Fargo is a great place to play ball,” said Penprase, who led the American Association with 95 runs scored and 47 stolen bases last season.

Penprase batted .311 last season in 97 games, his best average with F-M.

“He’s playing a premier spot,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “He’s definitely one of the tops players in the league. He’s just not a power hitter, he’s a run scorer.”

Penprase is one the four position players that F-M has returning from last season. Center fielder Nic Jackson, outfielder Buddy Sosnoskie and catcher Todd Jennings are the other three.

“It gives us a good core, especially in the middle of the field,” Simunic said.

Penprase played 45 games for the Blue Sox with a .282 batting average. He set a club record with 16 stolen bases. The Blue Sox finished second in a six-team league and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Penprase said each team had a limit for the number of non-Australian players it could have on the roster. Another F-M player, Ryan Stovall, played for Canberra, which won the league title.

“It was awesome,” said Penprase said. “The people out there were cool. The accents were awesome. I went to the beach all the time.”

Penprase said he came back to the RedHawks to win another league title. Penprase was part of two championship teams when the RedHawks were in the Northern League.

“Winning a ring is the hardest part,” Penprase said.

Penprase said he loves playing for Simunic and he’s been treated well by the RedHawks front office and the fans. Those factors all played into his decision to return to Fargo for another season.

“I might as well buy a house out there and just start living here,” he said with a laugh. “It’s kind of like my summer home.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com