GARY | Morgan Coombs’ statement on the baseball field was the rookies can help win championships, too.
In the clubhouse after the RailCats beat Fargo-Moorhead to advance to the American Association Championship Series, he explained why.
“We’re after one thing and that’s a championship,” said Coombs after he struck out eight RedHawks in seven-plus innings in the RailCats’ 3-0 win Saturday at U.S. Steel Yard. “We’ve had our eyes on the prize from the start of the year and we’re not settling for anything less than a championship. That’s what these older guys deserve and what the younger guys are hungry for; we’re giving it to each other.”
The veterans backed up Coombs’ shutout performance as the RailCats had key hits from Mike Massaro, Cristian Guerrero and Adam Klein. Longtime American Association infielder Reid Fronk, who joined the team late in the season, added an RBI single that helped the RailCats to the first playoff win against Fargo-Moorhead since 2005.
“I’d like to know what our winning percentage is when (Klein and Massaro) get on base in the first inning,” manager Greg Tagert said. “That set the tone.”
Coombs was the fourth RailCats pitcher in four days with a quality start, following the likes of Alain Quijano, who struck out five on the losing end of a pitcher’s duel in the RailCats only loss of the series, and Billy Spottiswood who threw a complete Game 3 on Friday.
“Pitching and defense is what the RailCats is all about and (the pitchers) stepped up and absolutely got it done,” outfielder Massaro said. “We get good pitching and play good defense and we’re going to have a chance to win some games.”
The 'Cats started their scoring in the first inning when Klein and Massaro, who are first and second on the team in runs scored, each had a hit and a run. Massaro drove in Klein on the right fielder's 18th triple of the season, continuing to raise his single-season career high. Fronk then scored Guerrero as an insurance run in the fifth inning.
Thanks to Coombs, that's all they'd need.
The RailCats will play Wichita for the American Association championship, beginning with a home game Tuesday. This season marks the first time since joining the AA in 2011 that the 'Cats have reached the playoffs and their first shot at the league title.
“We’re at the final goal now, our goal was to win a championship and we’re there and we’re not satisfied,” Massaro said. “We expect to win and that’s what we’ve done so that’s what we’re going to expect to continue to do.”