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Late homer after unusual call dooms RedHawks

RedHawks pitcher Jake Laber finishes his delivery during an American Association baseball game against Wichita on Wednesday in Fargo. Nick Wagner / The Forum

FARGO – Jake Laber had to face one more batter than planned Wednesday night and that proved to be costly for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks starting pitcher.

David Espinosa belted a two-run home run in the eighth inning to lift the Wichita Wingnuts to a 4-3 victory in American Association baseball at Newman Outdoor Field before 3,952 fans.

“The feeling of watching the ball go out of the ballpark and feeling like you let your team down is a tough one to swallow,” said Laber, who had limited the Wingnuts to two runs through the first seven innings.

The RedHawks (34-42) have lost seven consecutive games, including the past four against Wichita, which has the best record in the American Association.

Due to a unique circumstance, Laber had to stay in the game to face Espinosa after Jake Kahaulelio led off the eighth inning with an infield single. Kahaulelio hit a chopper near third base that RedHawks third baseman Ronnie Bourquin fielded. Bourquin didn’t make a throw to first base and thought the ball was foul. It was ruled fair.

RedHawks manager Doug Simunic came out of the dugout, argued the call and was eventually ejected from the game. During that sequence, it was ruled Simunic made a mound visit.

“By Doug leaving the mound area without having taken me out, I then had to face the next batter,” Laber said was his understanding of the ruling. “You are not allowed to make two mound visits at a time.”

Laber said the plan heading into the eighth inning was for him to stay in the game until one base runner reached. Espinosa took advantage of Laber having to stay in the game, hitting the next pitch after Kahaulelio reached over the wall in left field. That blast gave the Wingnuts a

4-3 lead and those proved to be the game-winning runs.

“I’ve got to be mentally tougher there, thinking that you weren’t going to face the guy but then all of a sudden having to face the guy,” Laber said. “You have to turn it back on again.”

Laber has lost his past eight starts and has been stuck on 44 wins in his RedHawks’ career since June 24. The left-hander is one win short of tying the franchise record for career wins.

“Getting wins as a pitcher is sometimes a little bit out of your control,” said Laber.

In six of those past eight Laber starts, the RedHawks have lost by one run.

Laber pitched seven-plus innings Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three, walked two and threw 91 pitches, including 65 strikes.

“Jake really did a heck of a job against a really good baseball team,” said Bucky Burgau, who was the RedHawks’ acting manager after Simunic got ejected.

The RedHawks took a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning after C.J. Retherford lashed a two-run double inside the third-base bag that scored Bourquin and Nic Jackson. That F-M lead was short-lived, however, as Espinosa hit his game-winning home run in the top of the eighth inning.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Laber said. “You don’t want to get swept at home.”


ab r h bi ab r h bi

Koury ss 4 0 0 0 Pnprse ss 5 0 0 0

Khlelio 2b 4 2 3 2 Borquin 3b 3 2 1 0

Epinsa 1b 3 1 1 2 Jckson cf 2 1 2 0

Clevlen cf 3 0 0 0 Rthrfrd 2b 4 0 2 3

Testa dh 4 0 0 0 Castro 1b 4 0 0 0

McMury c 4 0 0 0 Pramre c 4 0 1 0

McCldn 3b 4 0 2 0 Higgs c 0 0 0 0

Ambrsn rf 4 1 2 0 Carroll dh 3 0 0 0

Luce lf 4 0 0 0 Tripp rf 4 0 1 0

Kskdden lf 4 0 0 0

Totals 34 4 8 4 Totals 33 3 7 3

WICHITA 101 000 020 –4 8 0

REDHAWKS 001 000 200 –3 7 0

LOB–RedHawks 5, Wichita 7. DP–RedHawks 0, Wichita 1. 2b-Amberson (12), Jackson (11), Retherford (31). 3b-Bourquin (2). HR-Kahaulelio (7), Espinosa (3). SB-Kahaulelio (16). CS-Retherford (4).



Link 6X\c 6 1 1 2 5

Gaynor 0 0 2 2 1 0

Bennett, W Z\c 1 0 0 0 0

Zouzalik 1 0 0 0 0 0

Hinshaw, S 1 0 0 0 0 3



Laber, L 7 8 4 4 2 3

Woods 1 0 0 0 0 1

Harris 1 0 0 0 0 1

Umpires–Home: Stegner. First: Feaster. Third: Gonzalez. Time–2:52. A–3,952.

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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