Walk-off Fielder's Choice in Ninth Seals 4-3 Canaries Win
By Tony Cola
Sioux Falls, SD-- The Sioux Falls Canaries waited until the very last second to clinch their fourth win in six games Friday night, snatching a 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Goldeyes at the Birdcage thanks to a walk-off fielder’s choice by Chris Valencia in the bottom of the ninth. Canary starter Kyle Ruwe paved the way for the Birds from the mound, allowing only two earned runs on hits through seven innings.
An exceedingly efficient night at the plate from A.J. Kirby-Jones backed up Ruwe’s rock solid start, as the first baseman went two for two with a two-run homer and three walks. Kirby-Jones came into the night red-hot, batting .400 in his last five games with two homers and seven RBIs.
“I’m just trying to put the barrel on the ball and let whatever happens happen,” said Kirby-Jones.
The Canaries found themselves in an early one-run deficit after a sac fly from Josh Mazzola scored a runner from third. Ruwe would be on lockdown the rest of the night, keeping the Goldeyes off the scoreboard until the top of the eighth inning. Kirby-Jones’ two-run dinger in the third presented the Birds a 2-1 lead, with a double from Kevin Dultz three innings later giving his team a two-run cushion.
“Baseball is a game where you have to be ready to play every night,” said Kirby-Jones. “We just came with the same mentality and we were ready to play.”
The Goldeyes didn’t go down without a fight, however, putting Ruwe into an uncomfortable situation in the top of the eighth with men on the corners and no outs. That would be the end of the night for Ruwe, as Joe Testa came in relief of the Canaries’ workhorse. Testa induced a run-scoring double play that brought the Goldeyes within 3-2, though he would shut down the Goldeyes during the rest of the eighth.
Winnipeg tied the game the very next inning on a clutch lead-off solo home run from Jake Blackwood, wiping out any chance Ruwe had for a win on the night. However, Sioux Falls loaded up the bases on Winnipeg reliever Brendan Lafferty before Chris Valencia walked up to the plate with one out. The center fielder proceeded to slap a ball into the infield that allowed Kirby-Jones to score the game-winning run and let the Canaries steal their second game of the series.
Sioux Falls will attempt to seal a series win tomorrow night as they return to face the Goldeyes 6:05 pm at the Birdcage. The Man Salon will be the night’s sponsor, with free massages at the Birdcage. There will also be a kids jersey giveaway as well.