FARGO, ND – Before a sellout crowd of 4,470 fans, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks were blanked 3-0 by the St. Paul Saints at Newman Outdoor Field on Saturday evening.
The starting pitchers of both team's were no strangers to their opponent. Taylor Stanton started for the RedHawks while the Saints countered with Kramer Sneed. Stanton has had great success in his career versus the Saints. Coming into tonight he was 6-1 with a 1.08 ERA in eight games against St. Paul. Sneed, meanwhile, had faced Fargo-Moorhead three times prior to tonight's game, walking away with the win in all three games.
The game was scoreless until the third inning, but Stanton found himself working in and out of jams most of the night. In the first he allowed two runners aboard before forcing Mike Kvasnicka to ground out to second. In the second frame Stanton faced runners on the corners with two outs but got Alonzo Harris to ground out to third ending that threat.
Stanton's run of living dangerously ended in the third. Willie Argo led off with a four-pitch walk to start the inning, followed by an RBI double from the league's top batter in Vinny DiFazio giving the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Kramer Sneed found himself taking a no-hitter into the fourth inning. Chad Mozingo ended the no-no with a towering double that bounced off the wall in right-center giving the 'Hawks their first hit of the game. The double also extended Mozingo's hitting streak to nine games, a season high for the RedHawks. During the streak, Mozingo is 17-37 (.459) with a nine runs scored and 12 RBIs. Of his torrid ways at the plate, Mozingo said, “I've been keeping things simple. I've always been a fastball hunter, and I've just tried to stay aggressive.”
St. Paul would add two more in the fifth inning. Argo singled up the middle followed by a four-pitch walk to DiFazio to lead off the inning. Argo and DiFazio would then advance to third and second on a ground ball from Kvasnicka bringing up Ryan Lashley. Argo would first race home on a wild pitch from Stanton and DiFazio would trot into third. On the next pitch Lashley laced a single to left plating DiFazio making it 3-0 St. Paul.
Stanton gave way to rookie Nick Cooney in the top of the seventh after going six innings and allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Stanton's outing was his tenth quality outing in his 13 starts and the 15th quality start in the last 20 games for RedHawks' starting pitchers.
Cooney came on for the seventh making his professional debut. The rookie just finished his collegiate career at Wesleyan University, an NCAA Division-III school in the small town of Middletown, Conn, and had never pitched in an atmosphere like Newman Outdoor Field. Of the nerves and emotions he was feeling, Cooney said, “The atmosphere was great, definitely my first experience pitching in front of a crowd like this. I was definitely a little nervous the first inning and I had to take a second to catch my breath. I settled into things in the second inning and started commanding my fastball. It was good.”
Cooney got some help from Drew Muren in his first inning of work. After striking out the first batter he faced, Angelo Songco, he gave up a double to Kvasnicka and would then walk Lashley. Anthony Phillips followed with a flyout to shallow center where Muren was waiting. Upon catching the ball he fired the ball home to Joe Staley who easily applied the tag to Kvasnicka who was attempting to tag from third displaying his cannon for an arm in the 8-2 double play.
Cooney returned again for the eighth inning where he retired the side. Trailing 3-0 Doug Simunic gave way to Cooney again for the top of the ninth. After a lead off single to Argo he struck out DiFazio on three straight pitches. On striking out DiFazio he modestly stated, “To be totally honest I've only been here for two or three days and don't know the league well and don't know the guys in it yet. I just try to approach every batter the same way and go after them by pounding the zone.” Cooney had a memorable professional debut, as the left-hander went three innings, giving up no runs on just two hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts.
Rather than having Kramer Sneed attempt to go the distance, Manager George Tsamis opted to go with closer Ryan Rodebaugh. Sneed went eight innings of shoutout baseball, allowing just four hits with two walks and three strikeouts. His ERA dipped from 3.36 to 3.06 with his line on Saturday night. Rodebaugh came on and retired the RedHawks in order earning him his American Association leading 16th save of the season.
Stanton (3-2) takes the loss while Sneed (10-2) picks up his tenth win of the season and fourth against the 'Hawks.
Fargo-Moorhead drops to 23-42 while St. Paul hits the 50 win plateau improving to 50-16. The two teams will return to Newman Outdoor Field tomorrow night for Sunday Night Baseball Fargo style with a 6 p.m. first pitch time with Brandon Mann (3-6) taking the hill for the RedHawks and Jeff Shields (9-1) for the Saints.