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AA Week in Review: A lot of firsts!

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First wins, first ejections, first positive COVID test...

New York Mets Photo Day
I’m running out of pictures related to the American Association. Here’s a picture of Chris Coste from 10 years ago.
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

I hope to do these on Mondays moving forward since it’s an off day every week in the American Association, but the holiday happened this weekend and oh well. Maybe I’ll still do them on Tuesdays. Who knows???

Anyway, the American Association started regular-season action this past weekend! It yielded the first meaningful games in the realm of professional baseball in the United States, and it had some great contests. Here’s a review below:

Too little, too late...

The Winnipeg Goldeyes and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks opened up in Fargo, North Dakota, to start the season. Bradin Hagens posted a great start for the RedHawks on Friday night (6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K), but was still tagged with the L as the bullpen imploded to allow six runs in three innings of work. Mitchell Lambson also had a strong start for the Fish, going six innings and allowing only one earned run on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. F-M plated four runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but it was not enough as Winnipeg won by a score of 9-5. Kyle Martin hit two homers and notched four RBI for the Goldeyes in the game.

Starter Frank Duncan, Evan Grills, and Nate Antone held the RedHawks to one run on seven hits in game two of the series as the Winnipeg bats did some talking en route to a 15-1 bashing of Fargo-Moorhead on Independence Day. Southpaw Tyler Pike recorded only three innings of work in his start, allowing seven runs (four earned) on six hits. Infielder Christian Ibarra was able to close out the game from the mound, pitching two outs and recording a strikeout. Martin once again recorded a homer, now three round-trippers in two games, while Darnell Sweeney went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a walk. Dario Pizzano had the lone RBI for F-M in the loss.

A great game closed out the series on Sunday as the RedHawks looked to salvage a game from the series. This time, Winnipeg had to stage a comeback - and they did, forcing extra innings. The usually-reliable Kevin McGovern started for the Goldeyes and could not finish three innings of work (2.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 0 K). The Winnipeg bullpen kept it quiet until the bottom of the seventh when Trey Hair hit a two-run homer for Fargo-Moorhead. The scoring happened in the middle innings for the Fish when F-M starter Ryan Williams (5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) left the game with one out in the fifth and runners on second and third. Another Ryan, this time with the last name Thurston, came in and allowed a two-run single and a two-run homer in consecutive at-bats to give Winnipeg the lead. After Hair’s homer in the seventh, he played hero again with F-M down one run, drawing a bases-loaded walk. If that’s not enough, he called it a day in the 11th with a walk-off double to give manager Chris Coste his first managerial win of his professional career.

Coming up: Winnipeg will be the home team in Fargo, hosting the RedHawks for a three-game set before they travel down I-29 to The Birdcage to take on the Sioux Falls Canaries in another three-game set. Fargo-Moorhead will host the Chicago Dogs while the Goldeyes are in Sioux Falls.

Reigning champions win a series

The Sioux Falls Canaries took game one of a three-game set against the St Paul Saints at Sioux Falls Stadium in - you guessed it - Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Saints, who are the reigning American Association champions, made a couple of costly errors and the Canaries took advantage. St Paul batters came to life against Sioux Falls starter Tyler Herron (5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) in the fourth and fifth innings, but the Canaries went on to add four runs against the Saints bullpen en route to a 9-4 victory. Four players - the nine through three spots in the order - hit homers for the home team: Andrew Ely, Jabari Henry, Alay Lago, and K.C. Huth.

The second game of this series also turned out to be a “laffer”. 14 runs were allowed by Canaries pitching, but only nine of them were earned as two errors were committed by the infield. Matt Solter and the St Paul bullpen cruised through the game, allowing only five hits and one walk while John Silviano, Chris Chinea, and Sebastian Zawada, cranked out three homers and went a combined 6-for-13 with nine RBIs. Grady Wood (4 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) was tagged with the L in the 14-3 loss.

Jake Zokan started the rubber match for Sioux Falls, but he would not pitch into the fourth inning after allowing four earned runs on four hits and walking five Saints batters. The bullpen ended up allowing three more runs (two earned) and St Paul took the series in a 7-4 win. Mike Devine (5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) earned the win while Jameson McGrane (1.1 IP, 1 H, 3 K) notched his first save of the season.

Coming up: Like F-M, the Canaries will play as the visitor in their home park against St Paul for three games and then host Winnipeg. St Paul will travel to the land of cheese and beer to face the Milwakuee Milkmen.

Good firsts, bad firsts

Around the rest of the league, the Chicago Dogs and Milwaukee Milkmen split a three-game series in Franklin, Wisconsin. No, that is not a typo as Sunday’s game was postponed after two Milkmen players tested positive for COVID-19, a first for the American Association. Both teams announced that they plan to continue with their schedule starting today when they travel to Rosemont, Illinois, home of the Dogs, for a three-game set.

The 4-3 win for Milwaukee on Saturday produced another first. The win was the first AA win for manager Anthony Barone, who is in his first season at the helm of the Milkmen. He also was the first ejection of the season for breaking social-distancing rules while arguing a call from the dugout.

Standings

Team Record GB
St Paul Saints..........................2-1.....—
Winnipeg Goldeyes.................2-1.....—
Chicago Dogs......................... 1-1....0.5
Milwaukee Milkmen.................1-1....0.5
Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks...1-2.....1.0
Sioux Falls Canaries................1-2.....1.0