ST. PAUL — For six innings, it looked as if the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks would make their first-round American Association baseball playoff series a brief one.
After winning the first two games of their best-of-five series with the St. Paul Saints, the RedHawks took a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 3 on Saturday evening, only to see their hosts rally.
The Saints scored four in the seventh and pushed two runs across in the eighth to defeat the RedHawks 6-4. Game 4 will be at 5:05 p.m. Sunday in St. Paul.
RedHawks lefty starter Tyler Pike was perfect through six innings and took that commanding lead into the seventh, but got a no decision for his trouble, after the Saints hit a pair of homers off him and tied the game.
“Pike was pretty impressive. They didn't have a guy reach base for six innings,” RedHawks manager Jim Bennett said. “That says something, facing a lineup like this.”
Lefty Sebastian Kessay pitched in the eighth and took the loss for F-M, while Jordan Jess got the win for the Saints, who finished ahead of the RedHawks in the North Division in the regular season. Tanner Kiest allowed a leadoff walk in the ninth, but finished the game to earn the save for St. Paul.
While Pike was retiring the first 18 Saints he faced in order, the RedHawks broke the scoreless deadlock in the fourth. Chris Jacobs led off with a hard-hit ball on a 3-2 count, which just cleared the 400 sign in deep center field. It was Jacobs’ second homer of the playoffs. Correlle Prime and Leo Pina followed with singles, but three straight fly balls to center prevented the RedHawks from adding to their lead.
“With a 4-0 lead, we had nothing but confidence. That’s baseball,” Jacobs said. “Tomorrow’s a new day, with a chance to close it out.”
F-M extended the lead in the fifth when Brennan Metzger led off with a walk, went to second on an errant pickoff throw, gained third on a wild pitch and scored when Devan Ahart sailed a single over the head of Saints right fielder Michael Lang. After Karch Kowalczyk came on in relief of Saints starter Eddie Medina, Ahart scored from second to make it 3-0, sliding in ahead of a sweep tag attempt after Leo Pina singled.
Pike got some help to stay perfect through five innings when Metzger ended the home half of the fifth with a diving catch off the bat of Saints infielder Josh Allen in left.
F-M added another run in the seventh then loaded the bases with one out, but missed a chance to break the game open when Carlos Garcia looped out to short and Joe Becht stuck out looking.
“We left runners on base. You don’t get those guys in and a team like St. Paul comes back, you look back and see that can haunt us,” Bennett said. “It happens. It is what it is. It’s not like the guys aren’t giving an effort.”
That missed opportunity proved costly when the Saints got their bats going in the bottom of the seventh. Back-to-back singles ended the no-hit bid, then Brady Shoemaker ripped a towering homer to left, pulling St. Paul back within a run at 4-3. After Pike retired the next two Saints, Allen lifted a homer to right to tie the game. Pike was lifted in favor of right-hander Brent Jones, who ended the inning.
“I feel like I had everything going pretty good. I was throwing all four (pitches) for strikes, in and out, up and down when I needed to,” Pike said. “That last inning they got the first hit off me I had to go to a stretch, and I hadn’t gone to a stretch all game so it took me a second to get dialed in. Shoemaker and Allen put two good swings on two balls I missed over the plate. It’s part of the game.”
The Saints got two quick outs to start the first, then the RedHawks mounted a threat when Devan Ahart singled and Chris Jacobs walked. Prime worked a 3-2 count before bouncing out to short to end the inning.
In the third, the RedHawks got a Brennan Metzger single and a Tim Colwell walk with one out, but the threat was squelched when Ahart hit into a double play.
The RedHawks were 3-9 versus St. Paul in the regular season and are now 1-6 at CHS Field in 2019.