FARGO -- Thursday afternoon at Newman Outdoor Field was highlighted with things you rarely see at a baseball game.
The Stanley Cup trophy made a pregame appearance and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks turned a triple play in the first inning. Then, the RedHawks doubled down on the rarity, turning a second triple play in the fifth.
“I’ve never seen one, so to see two is spectacular,” said RedHawks interim manager Michael Schlact.
That flashy defense helped the RedHawks earn a 3-2 victory against the Lincoln Saltdogs in American Association play before 4,211 fans.
F-M (55-41) has won two consecutive games to remain in first place in the wild-card standings with four games to play in the regular season. The RedHawks start a four-game series at 7 p.m. Friday at Winnipeg to close out the season. The top team in the wild-card race earns a spot in the American Association postseason.
“We’re taking care of our business,” Schlact said. “We’re going to take it game by game. If we don’t take care of our business, it doesn’t matter what else happens.”
RedHawks third baseman Josh Mazzola drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning that gave F-M a 3-2 lead. Mazzola also started both triple plays.
“It’s definitely an interesting experience today, especially doing it twice,” Mazzola said.
The Saltdogs loaded the bases in the first inning with no outs before No. 4 hitter Randolph Oduber hit a grounder to Mazzola. Mazzola then tagged third base, threw the ball to Brandon Tierney and second base. Tierney then made a quick turn to get Oduber at first base to complete the triple play.
“I felt like that confidence was built off of that,” Schlact said. “That fired the dugout up.”
In the fifth inning, the Saltdogs had runners on first and second base with no outs. Lincoln catcher Dashenko Ricardo then hit a grounder to Mazzola, who again tagged third base before slinging the ball to Tierney at second. Tierney made another quick turn to get Ricardo at first base to complete the second triple play of the game.
“When I got that ball, the first thing went through my mind was ‘Don’t screw this up.’ I trusted Tierney to turn the play,” Mazzola said. “He got not such a great feed on the second one.”
The two triple plays in a game set an American Association record. Prior to Thursday, the league record for triple plays in a season was one, shared by multiple teams.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw the first time, and then for it to happen again, it was spectacular,” Schlact said.
The Minnesota Twins turned two triple plays against the Boston Red Sox during one game on July 17, 1990. The Twins lost that game.
Mazzola said he’s been on the other side of a triple play.
“I grounded into one in Mexico this offseason in Winter Ball, so I know how it feels,” Mazzola said.
The RedHawks took a 2-0 lead in the third inning Thursday after Devan Ahart belted an opposite-way, two-run home run over the wall in left field. The Saltdogs clawed back with a run in the sixth inning. Lincoln tied the score at 2-2 in the top of the eight, after shortstop Christian Ibarra delivered with an RBI single into left field.
RedHawks designated hitter Chris Grayson started the rally in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out single. Grayson then stole second and third base with Mazzola at the plate. Mazzola then lifted a deep fly ball to left field to score Grayson with the winning run.
“We’ve got to keep winning,” Mazzola said.
NOTE: Video highlights courtesy of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks