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Eric Peterson, Published September 09 2013

Despite early playoff exit, RedHawks still had a productive season

FARGO – While the end was disappointing, Doug Simunic liked what his minor league baseball team accomplished over the entire season.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks won more than 60 games in the American Association regular season for the second year in a row. However, they also exited in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season.

“I measure baseball for what you do over the schedule,” said Simunic, who completed his 18th season as manager of the RedHawks. “If you win 62 percent of your games, it’s a pretty good feat. Some people measure it over these five-game series.”

Gary SouthShore earned a 3-1 victory in the best-of-5 series, which Gary ended Saturday with a 3-0 win at U.S. Steel Yard.

“Any time a season comes to an end, it’s sad,” said RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase, who has played six seasons with the team. “You may never see some of the guys you played with again.”

The RedHawks posted a 62-38 record during the regular season and won the North Division. F-M lost eight of its first 10 games this season, before posting a 60-30 record in the final 90 games in the regular season.

“That’s pretty good,” Simunic said. “I just feel for the guys. They came so far and to have it not work out in the end.”

The F-M bats went silent against Gary in the playoffs. The RedHawks scored five runs over the four games. Their team batting average was .174 (21 of 121) and they had four extra-base hits in the series, three doubles and one home run.

“They slowed the game down,” Simunic said of Gary SouthShore pitching. “They threw a lot of breaking balls. They kept us off balance. … Hats off to Gary; they pitched us to a ‘T,’ and when we hit the ball hard, they made a play.”

The RedHawks won Game 1 of the series before Gary won the next three. Prior to that, F-M hadn’t lost three games in a row since mid-June.

The RedHawks lived off the big inning during the regular season. They had a team batting average of .265, which ranked near the bottom of the 13-team American Association.

However, F-M was fourth in the league with 519 runs, an average of 5.2 runs per game.

Simunic said not putting the ball in play enough hurt his team in the playoffs. The RedHawks struck out 25 times in the Gary series.

“We usually played for the big inning,” Simunic said. “We were notorious for swinging and missing a lot. We didn’t hit the spinning ball very well.”

RedHawks pitching was near the best in the league during the season with a 3.72 team ERA. That ranked second behind Wichita, which had the best record in the regular season at 68-32.

F-M right-handed starter Taylor Stanton was named the league’s pitcher of the year, leading the American Association with a 2.43 ERA.

The RedHawks also became the fourth franchise in modern independent baseball history (1993-present) to reach 1,000 wins this season. The have the highest winning percentage in that group.

“Winning 1,000 is cool, but I think the goal is winning a championship,” Penprase said.

Penprase said he’s itching to return for a seventh season with F-M.

“I already can’t wait to come back to Fargo and get after it again,” Penprase said. “Every year I have come here, it has been a good group of guys.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com