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Sansom heats up down final stretch

WINNIPEG -- Middle reliever, set-up man and closer -- Trevor Sansom has filled each role in his professional baseball career. However, none of those labels concern the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks pitcher when he's on the mound. "It's just baseball," ...

WINNIPEG -- Middle reliever, set-up man and closer -- Trevor Sansom has filled each role in his professional baseball career.

However, none of those labels concern the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks pitcher when he's on the mound.

"It's just baseball," Sansom said. "I really don't think about it too much."

Sansom's flexibility has helped the RedHawks to the brink of a Northern League baseball championship. He's been a stabilizer in the bullpen this season, starting the year as a set-up man before taking over as the team's closer.

"He uses emotion to help him close the game," RedHawks pitching coach Jeff Bittiger said. "He pitches right on the edge and is able to keep that balance."

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That edge will be tested as the best-of-5 Northern League championship series shifts here with the RedHawks holding a

2-0 lead in the series.

F-M gets its first chance to close out the Goldeyes in Game 3, which is scheduled for 7 tonight at CanWest Global Park.

The RedHawks seek their second league championship and first since 1998.

"They are going to have 7,000 fans against us," RedHawks first baseman Toby Rumfield said.

The numbers would indicate that Sansom is ready for the tension.

The right-hander has been at his best late in the regular season and into the playoffs.

In August, Sansom went 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA and six saves in 13Xc innings. In the playoffs, Sansom has a 0.00 ERA with two saves in 4Zc innings.

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He has not allowed a run in his last 17 relief appearances. The last run Sansom gave up was on July 19 against Sioux City.

Those numbers are comparable to former RedHawk standout relievers George Schmidt, Barry Nelson and Matt Jeckell, who all pitched for the 1998 league champions.

"It's up there with anyone else you can mention," Bittiger said.

A Winfield, WVa., product, Sansom said confidence and the development of his slider have been the two biggest keys to his success. He's also added velocity to his fastball.

"This has been my best year in professional baseball by far, numbers-wise and the way I feel," said Sansom, who started his professional career in 1999. "My arm has felt great all year."

Sansom's value has increased in the postseason. The RedHawks lost right-handed reliever Doug Young (who quit the team and went home to California before the final game of the regular season) right before the postseason.

Sansom has entered the game in the eighth inning in both of his postseason saves.

It's not the traditional one-inning closer role, but its nothing new to Sansom who regularly pitched two-inning stints when he was a set-up man to start this season.

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"Now it's just the eighth and ninth inning, instead of the seventh and eighth," Bittiger said. "It's something that he is accustomed to."

Sansom has welcomed the challenge.

"I feel like I've pitched the right amount of innings," Sansom said. "I don't think I've been overused or underused."

NOTES: Left-handed pitcher Mike Peschel (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to start today's Game 3 for the RedHawks. The Goldeyes are expected to counter with left-hander Roger Luque (1-0, 3.75 ERA). Luque was 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA against the RedHawks in two starts during the regular season. Peschel was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA against the Goldeyes in two starts during the regular season. ... The RedHawks are sending 103 fans in two fan buses to Winnipeg for Game 3 at CanWest. ... Through seven postseason games, RedHawks outfielder B.J. Garrison leads the team with a .375 (9-for-24) batting average. He has three doubles, one home run and three RBI. ... RedHawks outfielder Joe Mathis and first baseman Toby Rumfield are tied for the league playoff lead with seven RBIs each.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513

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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