Bismarck right-hander Jamie Kaye slapped an emphatic exclamation point on the Larks’ inaugural season on Sunday, tossing a complete-game six-hitter as Bismarck beat La Crosse 1-0.
Luke Horanski’s two-out single to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Scooter Bynum, who led off the ninth with a double to left and was at third when Horanski delivered the game-winning single.
Bismarck won its last three games of the season, each in front of sellout crowds at Municipal Ballpark despite being out of the playoff hunt. Bismarck sold out 27 of 36 home games.
“You can’t make stuff like that up,” Bismarck coach Sean Repay said. “The only thing that would have made it better was if that would have put us in the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of my guys. We knew we were out of playoff contention for the final homestand. But they battled.”
Playoffs or not, Kaye (2-3) wanted the ball for the finale. He became the first Larks player to throw a complete game, needing 104 pitches and two great defensive plays to get the job done.
“I wanted to pitch in front of the Larks crowd,” Kaye said. “We wanted to go out with a bang. To win like we did was awesome.”
Kaye had gone between six and 7.1 innings in his last three starts only to watch his team lose three times by one run. He was the losing pitcher in two games.
On Sunday, Kaye and La Crosse starter Jason Seever battled through eight innings before Seever reached the league-limit of 100 pitches and left the game. He gave up four hits and struck out seven batters.
“That was the best start we’ve had all year,” Repay said. “That says a lot because we’ve had some quality starts but never had anybody go the distance, let alone throw a complete-game shutout.”
Kaye got in trouble in the eighth but he was saved by shortstop Jeff Mayes. With one out, Kennie Taylor doubled to left. With two outs, David Villar was intentionally walked and Jorge Guiterrez unintentionally walked to load the bases.
Garrett Christman then hit a line drive up the middle that Mayes chased down and dove to make the catch.
In the ninth, Larks third-baseman Brandon Lankford made a great grab of a long-hop bouncer and threw out Andrew Tanous to start the inning. Kaye struck out Dashon Moore to end the inning.
“There was a couple spots there where the game could have got away, but those defensive plays – my goodness – just huge defensive plays all around,” Repay said.
Cody Ebert (4-6) relieved Seever to start the ninth and got Wyatt Ulrich on a groundout.
Bynum, who had three of the Larks’ six hits to raise his season average to .290, looped a double down the left-field line and went to third on Ryan Anderson’s check-swing grounder to the mound.
Horanski then lined a 2-1 pitch to left and was mobbed by teammates on the field. The scene was similar to the opener when the Larks won on a two-out hit in the ninth.
“Every day this club came out and gave it their all,” Horanski said. “What a great feeling. I wanted to get it done for the fans. They have been incredible all year. I looked up, saw there was two outs and said ‘game’s over baby.’ The city of Bismarck has been great and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“We won 31 games and that’s something to build on for next year,” Repay said. “I’m glad we’re starting on a three-game winning streak.”