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RedHawks manager Coste says fans gave 'World Series' feel to championship-clinching Game 5 victory at Newman

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks rallied for an emotional Game 5 victory before a home crowd at Newman Outdoor Field to win their first American Association baseball championship.

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The F-M Redhawks rush the field as Christian Correa scores the game-winning run against Milwaukee for Miles Wolff Cup baseball championship Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Newman Outdoor Field.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — An emotional Chris Coste grabbed the microphone as the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks were being presented the Miles Wolff Cup for winning the American Association baseball championship Thursday night at Newman Outdoor Field.

The RedHawks manager made sure to address the fans who stayed for the postgame celebration.

“We may not have 5,000 people here, but we have the right people here every single playoff game,” Coste said. “Wow. Awesome. Give yourselves a hand. … Giddy-up.”

The RedHawks rallied from a five-run deficit after six innings to earn a suspense-filled 9-8 victory against the Milwaukee Milkmen in 10 innings in a decisive Game 5 before 1,236 fans.

A dramatic and at times electric night at the ballpark ended with F-M winning its first American Association championship.

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“The fans wanted the championship as much as us, and that as players, coaches, managers, that makes it feel like a World Series,” said Coste, who won a World Series championship with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.

The RedHawks won a league championship for the first time since 2010 and their sixth overall. The previous five titles came in the Northern League, which F-M was a member from 1996-2010 before moving to the American Association in 2011.

The RedHawks trailed 8-3 on Thursday night after the Milkmen had a six-run sixth inning that appeared to be a knockout blow at the time. F-M, however, clawed back into the game with a five-run seventh inning that ultimately forced extra innings.

“Incredible to win this,” said RedHawks player personnel consultant Jeff Bittiger, who has been involved with the franchise as a player, coach or consultant since its first season. “Who comes back from 8-3 in the seventh in a Game 5? We could have replayed that game probably 100 times and 99 times, we (would) lose. I don’t believe in meant-to-be, but this right here will give you pause. … I’m emotionally spent right now.”

Coste — who played for the 1998 RedHawks team that won the franchise’s first Northern League championship — welled up with emotion in the postgame aftermath. During the regular season, the Fargo South graduate missed time while dealing with neurological issues in his back and lower body. Coste’s health improved as the season progressed and then culminated with the championship.

“Everything that you put into it, to end up like this, the emotions get to you and it’s a great thing,” Coste said. “For every team at any level, this is what you fight for, but to still achieve it’s beyond what your emotions can handle for the most part. … My emotions didn’t have anything to do with me personally. It had everything to do with how last year finished, how this year’s team was built and how it all came together throughout the entire season.

“It was all about what this organization was able to build, what the players were able to accomplish, then of course the amazing Game 5, which will go down in league history. I don’t know how a Game 5 could ever be topped in this league.”

The RedHawks lost to the Kansas City Monarchs in the championship series last season. F-M knocked off the Monarchs in the West Division championship series this postseason before beating Milwaukee to win the league title. The RedHawks had a 5-0 record this postseason in games in which they faced elimination. They lost Game 1 in the three playoff series they won, including the championship.

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F-M Redhawks third baseman Leobaldo Pina delivers the game-winning hit against Milwaukee for the Miles Wolff Cup baseball championship Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Newman Outdoor Field.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

“To win in this environment, it was so hard,” Bittiger said. “To beat Kansas City, that was a gigantic hurdle.”

Third baseman Leo Pina — in his fifth season with the RedHawks — proved to be the Game 5 hero. His RBI single in the 10th inning scored veteran catcher Christian Correa from second base, setting off a wild on-field celebration and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“He’s now an all-time great, he’s now a RedHawks all-time great,” Bittiger said. “He’s been a constant and also a great kid.”

Pina was named the most valuable player for the championship series, capping a stellar postseason. Pina batted .347 (17 of 49) with seven doubles, two triples and six RBIs in 11 playoff games to go along with sparkling defense at third base.

Coste said Pina has established himself among the best players in franchise history. The RedHawks inaugural season was in 1996.

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The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks celebrate their defeat of Milwaukee for the Miles Wolff Cup baseball championship Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Newman Outdoor Field.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

“You would now put Leo Pina right there with (shortstop) Zach Penprase and (center fielder) Joe Mathis,” Coste said. “He’s as RedHawk of a player as this organization has ever had.”

Fargo South graduate Alex DuBord closed the door for the RedHawks on Thursday night. The team’s right-handed closer and American Association relief pitcher of the year pitched three scoreless, hitless innings to earn the victory against the Milkmen.

“What he’s meant to us the last two years now, you can’t even calculate his value,” Coste said of DuBord, who had 23 saves during the regular season. “He showed it in Game 5. It’s awesome that he’s a local guy, but it’s even better that he’s really good and he’s a great teammate. He proved himself as the relief pitcher of the year.”

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DuBord said after Game 5 that he wasn’t going to be removed from the game once he entered in the eighth inning.

“I don’t want to be selfish, but once again this is my hometown and I wanted this more than anything I could imagine,” DuBord said. “So I told (Coste) when I came out, I got the rest of the game, win or lose.”

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The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks rallied past the Milwaukee Milkmen for a dramatic extra-innings victory in the deciding Game 5 of the Miles Wolff Cup finals.

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The F-M Redhawks' celebrate their defeat of Milwaukee for the Miles Wolff Cup baseball championship Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Newman Outdoor Field.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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The F-M Redhawks' rush the field after winning the Miles Wolff Cup baseball championship Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Newman Outdoor Field.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

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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