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RedHawks earn redemption, return trip to American Association championship series

Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks left-handed starter Peyton Wigginton had a stellar performance in a decisive Game 3 of the West Division championship series against Kansas City.

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Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste is shown here earlier this season. Coste helped guide F-M to the American Association baseball championship series for a second consecutive season.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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KANSAS CITY — The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks earned redemption and a return trip to the American Association baseball championship series Thursday night at Legends Field.

Rookie starting pitcher Peyton Wigginton pitched six scoreless innings to help lift the RedHawks to a 4-1 victory against the Kansas City Monarchs in the third and deciding game of the best-of-3 West Division championship series.

“It means everything to be able to help the team out,” said the 24-year-old Wigginton, who played college baseball at Middle Tennessee State. “It was nice to not let anybody down.”

The RedHawks — who dropped Game 1 of the series at home — won back-to-back games in Kansas City to earn a 2-1 series victory. The Monarchs are the defending American Association champions as they swept the RedHawks in last season's finals.

"I don't think I've been part of a more hungry team," RedHawks manager Chris Coste said.

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The RedHawks play the Milwaukee Milkmen in the best-of-5 championship series, which starts at 6 p.m. Saturday in Milwaukee. Game 2 is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday in Milwaukee.

“It means a lot to us," RedHawks shortstop Sam Dexter said of returning to the American Association championship series. "Last year ended not the way we wanted it to. We’re out here to win a title and we get another shot at it. It’s going to be a great series with Milwaukee.”

Wigginton slowed down a potent Kansas City lineup Thursday night as he scattered six hits, struck out four batters and walked four to earn the victory.

“Nothing short of amazing," Coste said of Wigginton. “When you see a rookie beat a team like Kansas City in this moment, it really is extraordinary.”

RedHawks closer Alex DuBord pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save and clinch the series. F-M second baseman Peter Maris snagged a Ryan Grotjohn line drive in short right field for the game's final out, setting off a spirited celebration.

“It was so big for us," Dexter said of Wigginton. "He’s been good for us all year, but he was great tonight. That’s a really good offense, I couldn’t be more proud of him for his performance.”

DuBord, who wasn't 100% healthy for Game 1, earned saves in both Game 2 and Game 3 against the Monarchs in Kansas City.

“I was going to be the guy, hurt or not," DuBord said. “I wanted to give our team a chance to win, so I went in there and threw strikes.”

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The Monarchs scored their first run in the eighth inning after right fielder Jan Hernandez scored on a Joe Jones wild pitch, cutting the F-M lead to 4-1. The hard-throwing Jones escaped further damage, getting J.C. Escarra to pop out to Maris with a runner on third base to end the eighth.

Christian Correa helped the RedHawks start fast with a two-run home run that sailed over the left-field wall that gave F-M a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Center fielder Evan Alexander, who led off the inning with a single, scored on Correa's blast.

The RedHawks took a 3-0 lead after Dexter — who earlier doubled — scored from third base when Drew Ward reached on a Kansas City error in the fifth inning. Monarchs starter Jalen Miller was lifted after five innings. The right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits. Miller struck out three batters and walked one.

Alexander added a sacrifice fly that scored right fielder John Silviano to give the RedHawks a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning. Silviano led off the frame with a double to left-center field. That proved to be more than enough offense for Wigginton and three F-M relief pitchers.

“After last year, there was only one goal and that was to win a championship," Coste said. "Knowing we had to go through Kansas City to do it made it extra tough. It almost feels like the finals, even though there is so much more to do.”

Wigginton was clutch when needed against the Monarchs. He worked out of a crucial bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning. He got Kansas City shortstop Pete Kozma to tap into a fielder's choice with two outs that ended the potential rally with no runs. That was the last batter Wigginton faced before giving way to the bullpen.

“I knew this was like the do-or-die moment," Wigginton said. "I figured I wouldn’t be going out there for the seventh inning so I kind of emptied the tank.”

DuBord was impressed with Wigginton's performance.

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“That’s the biggest part of the game," DuBord said. “That’s a big spotlight to be in and that’s a great job that he did.”

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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