WICHITA, KS – History repeated itself Monday night, as the Winnipeg Goldeyes won their second American Association championship in the last five years over the Wichita Wingnuts at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
This time, the Goldeyes took Game 5 of the Championship Series 11-4 over the Wingnuts in front of 1,013 fans from both cities.
Centre-fielder Reggie Abercrombie led Winnipeg’s explosive offense with three hits – including two home runs – and seven RBIs to break a franchise record for individual RBIs in a single postseason game and tie a team record for home runs.
But Abercrombie won’t take all the credit.
“This is one hell of a team,” he said during the post-game celebrations. “I can’t ask for a better team. These guys don’t ever give up. Everybody on the bench to everybody in the game – these guys never gave up. Today, we showed it. These boys deserve this thing. They deserve everything they can get right now.”
The Goldeyes faced elimination four times on the road through the Division and Championship series.
“We fought from the first round,” Abercrombie said. “Once we got through Game 4, we’ve been through this all year. We’ve been fighting our whole season. Just to end like this is a blessing.”
The Goldeyes’ bats were hot from the first inning.
With Willie Cabrera on first and Maikol Gonzalez on second, Abercrombie doubled to score both runners and give the Fish a 2-0 lead.
Left-hander Kevin McGovern then set the Wingnuts down in order, and Winnipeg responded with two more in the top second. Casio Grider led off with a double, and Adam Heisler hit a two-out double of his own to drive him home. Later in the inning, Cabrera singled to score Heisler and make it a 4-0 game.
The Goldeyes added a fifth run in the top fourth when Abercrombie drew a five-pitch walk with the bases loaded. The Wingnuts threatened with runners on first and second in the bottom half of the inning, but the Fish stranded them both.
Neither team scored again until the seventh. Cabrera led off with a single, and Abercrombie hit a two-run homer to make it 7-0. With two outs, Grider singled, stole second and scored on a Wes Darvill base hit.
Wichita made it on the board later that inning, scoring two on an RBI fielder’s choice.
The Goldeyes responded with two runs in the top eighth. In almost identical fashion to the seventh inning, Cabrera singled (this time with two outs), and Abercrombie hit a two-run shot to drive him home.
The Wingnuts added a pair of runs in the bottom eighth, and Carlton Tanabe scored Grider on an RBI single in the ninth to give the game its final 11-4 score.
“They never gave up, and they believed in themselves,” Goldeyes manager Rick Forney said after the game. “It showed in the way they played. There was no panicking. They just came out and played. They’re willing to lay it on the line for each other, and this was the result.
“One of the biggest secrets to our team is not only that we’re good baseball players – that’s obvious – but they genuinely love each other. They play hard for one another, and it was just one hell of a season.”
Winnipeg starter Kevin McGovern (1-1, 3.43) took the win. He struck out five and gave up only two earned runs on five hits through six innings. Victor Capellan allowed two runs on one hit through the next 1 1/3 innings, and Eric Eadington pitched two scoreless outs to close out the bottom eighth. Winston Abreu struck out two and walked one in the ninth.
“McGovern came out there. That man came off three days’ rest, came out, pitched a hell of a game,” Abercrombie said. “After that, the bullpen came in, and everybody else chipped in. I’m blessed to have these guys behind me.”
It’s a sentiment Forney echoes.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say this, but this is my favourite Goldeyes team of all time, just because of the adversity they overcame. We were 21-22 at one point, and it wasn’t looking good, but we stayed true to one another and kept playing hard every day.”
Call the Goldeyes office at 204-982-2273 for information about 2017 season tickets, 10-game mini packs or group outings.