Kansas City stuns RedHawks in Game 1 of division championship series with 4 runs in 9th inning
The Kansas City Monarchs scored four runs in the ninth inning to rally for victory against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
FARGO — Kansas City Monarchs got a clutch pinch hit from J.C. Escarra on Monday night to stun the home team.
Escarra belted a three-run home run in the ninth inning to help the Monarchs rally for a 5-2 victory against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the American Association West Division championship series at Newman Outdoor Field.
“That’s just the way they’re built," RedHawks bench coach Anthony Renz said. "They put pressure on you to get every out and they made a couple big swings in some pressure situations. ... A little disheartening loss, but at this point it’s just one game.”
The Monarchs scored four runs in the ninth inning to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series. Game 2 is slated for Wednesday night in Kansas City. The RedHawks need a victory to keep their season alive and force a deciding Game 3, which would also be played at KC if necessary. Left-hander Tyler Grauer is slated to start for F-M in Game 2 on Wednesday.
“If we swing the bats a little bit down there, I like our chances," Renz said.
The RedHawks took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning Monday, but Kansas City shortstop Pete Kozma started the rally with a groundball RBI single that scored Jan Hernandez. Two batters later, Escarra delivered his game-winning blast with two outs.
“They found some holes late and then Escarra made one big swing," Renz said.
The Monarchs took advantage of two walks in the top of the ninth. One of the walks came with first base open. Escarra hit his home run off hard-throwing reliever Joe Jones, who came in after Reid Birlingmair.
“I think Jones threw a good pitch, I think the guy just made a better swing," Renz said. "Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap in that situation.”
RedHawks closer Alex DuBord wasn't 100%, Renz said, so that's why he wasn't used late in the game.
“We wanted to try to not use him," Renz said. "If he was available, he would have been in that game.”
Runs were at a premium prior to Kansas City's big ninth inning.
RedHawks starter Kevin McGovern pitched a stellar seven innings. The veteran left-hander allowed one run on six hits. He struck out six batters and walked two. F-M turned double plays in the sixth and seventh innings behind McGovern. He didn't figure in the decision.
"Gov was terrific, which was awesome to see," Renz said.
Right fielder John Silviano gave the RedHawks their first lead with an RBI single that scored Drew Ward from second base for a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning.
Kansas City opened the scoring in the fourth inning, taking a 1-0 lead after Gio Bruso's fielder's choice scored Hernandez from third base. The Monarchs loaded the bases with one out but McGovern limited the rally to one run.
The RedHawks countered in the sixth inning with their first run. Left fielder Alec Olund had an RBI single to drive in Leo Pina and tie the score at 1-1. After that, F-M loaded the bases on an Evan Alexander infield single with one out. However, Monarchs reliever Brandon Koch retired the next two batters to prevent F-M from adding to the one-run rally.
Monarchs starter Matt Hall was effective, pitching 5 1/3 innings and allowing one run — which was unearned — on six hits. The left-hander struck out nine batters and walked two before giving way to Koch in the sixth. Hall, like McGovern, didn't figure in the decision.
“The series is not over," Renz said. “It’s only one game, but we’ve still got two cracks at it and they’ve got to put us away.”