RailCats beat Fargo to advance to championship series
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or email@example.com September 7, 2013 11:14PM
Railcat's Adam Klein gets a base hit to start off the 1st inning at The Steel Yard on Saturday September 7, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:24AM
GARY — First, the RailCats made the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Now, they have advanced to a championship series for the first time since ’09.
The RailCats downed Fargo-Moorhead 3-0 in Game 4 on Saturday night at the Steel Yard, wrapping up the best-of-5 semifinal series. They will play Wichita for the American Association championship, with that series beginning on Tuesday.
“We’re after one thing and that’s a championship,” winning pitcher Morgan Coombs said. “We haven’t won anything yet — we just won a series. We’ve had our eyes on the prize since the start of the year, and we’re not settling for anything less than a championship. That’s what these older guys deserve and what the younger guys are hungry for. … It’s a big team, and we all have each other’s back.”
For the fourth time in as many games in the series, the RailCats received a quality start. This time, it was Coombs going seven-plus shutout innings, allowing five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
“That’s our job to throw zeroes, and right now it’s bigger than ever,” Coombs said.
And the RailCats rotation indeed came up big in the series. With Alain Quijano, Stephen Hiscock, Billy Spottiswood and Coombs, all of their starters worked at least 62/3 innings, and none posted an ERA higher than 2.46.
“Their pitching slowed it down, frustrated us,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “We couldn’t adjust to a lot of different junk. It just hasn’t been our nature to turn down the breaking ball. We had a hard time adjusting to their pitching.”
The RailCats, too, did not commit an error in the series.
“Our guys have been lights out,” right fielder Mike Massaro said of the rotation. “Pitching and defense is what the RailCats are all about, and they stepped up and absolutely got it done.”
The familiar combination of Adam Klein and Massaro got it done in the first inning, with Klein singling to lead off and Massaro following with a triple to plate the game’s first run. The RailCats added an unearned run when second baseman C.J. Retherford committed a two-out error on Brian Kolb’s sharp grounder.
“We talked about it, we wanted to jump on them early,” Massaro said. “Jump on them early and maybe they’d get down a little bit. … We were off and rolling.”
Still, the score remained 2-0 until the fifth, when Reid Fronk delivered run-scoring single with two outs, the RailCats’ third hit of the inning. Fronk went 1-for-2 with two walks and the RBI in the game, and 6-for-12 with six RBI in the series; he continued his hot hitting following an understandably slow start after he initially came off the inactive list in early August.
After Coombs allowed a single to Zach Penprase to start the eighth, Estevan Uriegas got a strikeout and double-play grounder out of the bullpen to end the inning. Ian Durham struck out the side in the ninth for the save.
“To go through a club like Fargo, we knew what kind of challenge was ahead of us, but this club embraced it,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “I want these guys to embrace the pressure, and they certainly have.”
The RailCats’ celebration both on the field and in the clubhouse was relatively subdued.
“We’re at the final goal now — our goal was to win a championship,” Massaro said. “We got there, and we’re not satisfied. We expect to win, and that’s what we’ve done. And we’re going to continue to expect it. … We’ve put ourselves in position, and now it’s time to get it done.”