Bruso, RailCats win Northern League title
Gary SouthShore RailCats’ prefer elimination games.
Needing to win three straight victories to capture the Northern League Championships would have been too much of a task for most teams – especially against one of the hottest teams the NL has ever seen.
But not the RailCats.
The RailCats edged the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks 2-1 Sunday at the U.S. Steel Yard to complete their improbable road to the title. In the previous series with St. Paul, the RailCats overcame two elimination games to advance to the championship.
“Nobody expected us to do anything in this league,” said Greg Bruso, a former South Tahoe High pitcher who made two appearances in the championship series. “Our thing was that we were the worst team in the Northern League and yet we won the Northern League championship.”
Gary won all three games at U.S. Steel Yard after dropping both contests in Fargo. The RailCats are the first team in Northern League history to win the Championship after losing the first two games of the final round. Overall, Gary was 5-0 in elimination games during the 2005 postseason.
“We were pretty confident going home because we were 12-3 in our last 15 games (in the Steel Yard),” Bruso said. “We had our two best starters throwing on Friday and Saturday and good things happened, and we got into Sunday’s game.
“With this team it didn’t feel like the playoffs; it felt like a regular-season game. We didn’t get too nervous or too amped about it.”
Gary scored both of its runs in the first inning off Fargo’s Brandon Culp, who lost for the first time in 16 overall decisions in 2005 despite blanking the RailCats over his last seven frames for his second complete game of this series.
The RedHawks managed just four hits and a Bryon Jeffcoat fourth- inning homer off Gary starter Jamie Bennett, who was pitching on three days rest. Travis Kerber followed with three hitless innings and closer Derek Lopez retired the side in order in the ninth inning for the save.
Bruso warmed up in the bullpen late in the game, but Kerber was in a groove during his three-inning stint.
Gary won the Northern League Championship in just its fourth season in the league and first playoff appearance. The RailCats become just the fifth different team to win a NL crown, joining St. Paul (4), Winnipeg (4), Fargo-Moorhead (2 and Duluth-Superior (2).
Fargo-Moorhead lost for the fourth time in six trips to the championship series, including three of the last four. The RedHawks had been 11-0 lifetime at U.S. Steel Yard before losing the three games in this series, matching their longest losing streak of 2005. The RedHawks won 73 games overall, including five in the playoffs, the most in league history.
Bruso closed out Gary’s 12-4 victory over Fargo-Moorhead with a scorless inning on Saturday night.
He also pitched in Gary’s 5-1 defeat in Game 1, surrendering three hits and one earned run in an inning.
Year Winner Loser Series
1993 St. Paul Saints Rochester Aces 3-1
1994 Winnipeg Goldeyes Sioux City Explorers 3-1
1995 St. Paul Saints Winnipeg Goldeyes 3-1
1996 St. Paul Saints Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 3-0
1997 Duluth-Superior Dukes Winnipeg Goldeyes 3-2
1998 Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks St. Paul Saints 3-0
1999* Winnipeg Goldeyes Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 3-0
2000* Duluth-Superior Dukes Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 3-0
2001* Winnipeg Goldeyes Lincoln Saltdogs 3-1
2002* Winnipeg Goldeyes Sioux City Explorers 3-1
2003 Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks Winnipeg Goldeyes 3-1
2004 St. Paul Saints Schaumburg Flyers 3-2
2005 Gary SouthShore RailCats Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 3-2
*Northern League Central Division Final. Championship Series was played vs. Northeast League