by Dan Vaughan Jr., Monarchs
The Kansas City Monarchs (3-2) championship road came to a heartbreaking end Thursday night at Legends Field as the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (4-2) punched their ticket to the American Association Championship Series (Miles Wolff Cup) with a 4-1 win.
The RedHawks got stellar starting pitching from true rookie Peyton Wigginton (1-0), who held the league’s leading offense in check, scattering six hits over six shutout innings.
The RedHawks grabbed the lead in the top of the third inning with a lead off single by Evan Alexander and a two-run home run from Christian Correa to left to make it 2-0 off Monarchs starter Jalen Miller (0-1).
While Wigginton was able to hold the Monarchs off the board, Kansas City did have chances to get the offense going. The Monarchs got a runner on in each of the first four innings and had the bases loaded in the fourth, but Wigginton was able to make the key pitches to keep Kansas City at bay.
The RedHawks got a one out double in the fifth and scored on a wide throw at first on a ground ball to the deep right side of the infield from Ryan Grotjohn. The Monarchs’ second sacker made a great diving play in a deep shift in shallow right field, but the throw was low and bounced wide of first baseman Casey Gillaspie for an unearned run.
Fargo tacked on another run in the top of the sixth on a lead off double from John Silviano off Jordan Martinson. Manuel Boscan hit a ball to short that Pete Kozma threw to third to get Silviano, but the throw was low and Darnell Sweeney could not come up with the ball, putting runners at the corners. Alec Olund hit a shallow fly to right for the first out, but Evan Alexander hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it a 4-0 score in favor of the RedHawks.
Kansas City loaded the bases once again on Wigginton in the sixth, but the left-hander again made a big pitch to get out of the inning with two outs. Tanner Riley came in for the RedHawks in the seventh and walked J.C. Escarra then got a double play ball off the bat of Kevin Santa. The rookie right-hander then issued back-to-back walks to Mallex Smith and Darnell Sweeney before Joe Jones came in to get the final out.
The Monarchs’ lone run came in the home half of the eighth inning. Jan Hernandez singled off Jones with one out. Casey Gillaspie then doubled to left to put runners at second and third. Kozma struck out but a wild pitch from Jones brought home Hernandez for the only Monarchs’ run. Jones retired Escarra with a pop to second and the Monarchs went to the ninth down 4-1.
Closer Alex Dubord worked the ninth for the RedHawks. He retired the first two batters before Sweeney hit a single off the wall in left. Grotjohn smoked a ball to the right side to shallow right, into the defensive shift right into the glove of second baseman Peter Maris to finish the game, closing the book on the Monarchs’ season by a 4-1 score.
The RedHawks move on to play the Milwaukee Milkmen, who won the East Division Series on Wednesday night over Cleburne.
The Monarchs led the American Association at the plate hitting .293 during the regular season. The team also led in runs scored (696), home runs (165), OBP (.384) and OPS (.889). On the hill the club had the lowest regular season ERA at 4.40 and tops in strike outs (967) and first in WHIP (1.38). The home run and strikeout totals were new league records and the regular season record of 65-35 was the second highest total in franchise history.