RAMAPO, NY – The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks captured the lead in the top half of the second inning and would maintain the lead defeating the Rockland Boulders 5-3 and clinching the series before a robust crowd of 4,905 onlookers at Provident Bank Park on Saturday evening.
Behind the bat of Drew Muren, the RedHawks jumped on the board early in the second inning. Ryan Pineda and Taylor Oldham would reach on base hits and Connor Andrus would walk loading the bases for Muren. He took the first offering from Boulders’ starter Bo Budkevics and belted it off the wall in right with a bases clearing double plating three making it 3-0 Fargo-Moorhead.
Meanwhile, aided by the early run support, Brandon Mann appeared extremely comfortable on the hill. The wily veteran had produced quality starts in his last four outings coming into tonight, but was merely 1-3 in those games. With a line of three runs yielded (all earned) on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts in six innings of work, Mann tossed his fifth quality start in as many outings on Saturday.
Mann would retire the first eight Rockland batters of the game and retired the side in the first, second and sixth innings. He came into the game leading the American Association in strikeouts with 80, but only managed to strike out four Boulders. However, rather than putouts in the form of ‘K’s’, Mann forced fly ball out after fly ball out. In fact, half of his 18 outs in the game were induced fly balls.
Rockland did pick up one run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Stephen Cardullo doubled to start, and two batters later the Can-Am’s RBI leader, Marcus Nidiffer, delivered with a sacrifice fly to left plating Cardullo making it 3-1 in favor of Fargo-Moorhead.
After a scoreless fifth, the 'Hawks responded in the sixth. Joe Bonfe, who is tied for the league lead in hit-by-pitches, led off the frame by being plunked in the shoulder. Pineda would advance Bonfe to second two batters later and Joe Staley delivered a base hit allowing Bonfe to wheel home from second making it 4-1 RedHawks.
Brandon Mann was rolling along heading to the seventh but Rockland finally figured out the left-hander. Joe Maloney led off the frame with a solo home run to left-center field cutting the deficit dow to 4-2. Follwing the homer, Mann would proceed to walk two straight followed by a single from Steve Nyisztor sigaling the end of the day for the left-hander. Rookie Tyler Thompson came on in relief for the ‘Hawks and the rookie delivered. Facing a bases loaded jam with nobody out, Thompson forced Alex DeBellis to ground into the 4-6-3 double play allowing Nidiffer to score making it 4-3. He then induced a groundball from Giuseppe Papaccio to end the inning while limiting the damage.
Thompson remained on for the eighth frame and kept the Boulders in place. He tossed a scoreless frame while stranding two giving way to Mike Nesseth for the bottom of the ninth.
Joe Staley led off the top half of the ninth looking to extend the lead and he did just that. He belted a solo shot to right giving the RedHawks an insurance run heading to the home half.
Mike Nesseth came on to close down the ninth. The hard throwing right-hander from Windom, MN continued to be dominant on the hill in the ninth. He struck out the side earning his 11th save of the season and giving Fargo-Moorhead a 5-3 win and a two games to one series win over the defending Can-Am League champion Rockland Boulders. Nesseth has been especially good as of late, having recorded the save in his last nine chances.
Mann (3-6) earns the win with his fifth consecutive quality start while Bo Budkevics (2-4) takes the loss for the Boulders.
With the win, the RedHawks improve to 22-39 and end their road trip out East with a 6-5 record. Rockland, meanwhile, drops to 35-23 and only holds a ½ game lead over the New Jersey Jackals at the top of the Can-Am leaderboard.
Fargo-Moorhead will take three days off, using Sunday as a travel day before returning to the area late Sunday afternoon. They will take Monday and Tuesday off before resuming league play on Wednesday night by welcoming the Grand Prairie AirHogs to town for a three-game set. Then starting on Saturday, the ‘Hawks will welcome the league leading St. Paul Saints to town for the rare Saturday-Monday series. Tyler Herron (4-4, 3.52) looks to continue his string of good outings in the month of July as he will take the ball on Wednesday night.