While McDonald’s may have their “Big Mac,” The Lincoln Saltdogs have their Big Gac, first baseman Ian Gac. With just four games left in the season, and the team tied with the Gary Southshore RailCats for first place in the Central Division of the American Association, the Saltdogs first baseman delivered an epic attack that kept his team on the winning track, and tentatively puts them in first place as play will resume later tonight, in their attempt to hold the RailCats back.
A night after squandering a golden opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the Central Division, the Lincoln Saltdogs took to the field in the first game of a day-night double-header and took care of business. Nebraska’s big dogs downed the Sioux City Explorers in a must-win game 13-6, and it was the one man wrecking crew that is Ian Gac that did the most damage (he hit the big jack).
Alex Caldera was the starter for Sioux City, and was the proverbially lamb being led to slaughter. Gac understood his team needed a win today, and he was hell-bent to take his team on his back and carry them to victory. Sioux City jumped out to the early lead when Michael Lang scored on a ground ball hit by Rene Tosoni, to take a 1-0 lead (just a minor setback).
While the Explorers have a potent offense of their own, they understand that Lincoln can turn the numbers on the scoreboard as well. One run was most likely not going to be enough to win the game, and Gac showed them this was the case immediately (He got them on the fasttrack).
Chad Mozingo led off the bottom of the first inning with a walk and one out later Matt Forgatch reached on a free pass as well. That brought Gac to the plate, and Caldera was being very careful with him. The Saltdogs first baseman had three RBI two nights ago (in a flashback), including the game winning home run, in a 4-3 win over Sioux Falls Wednesday night, and his 24 home runs ranked second in the league. He is one to be reckoned with, and it took Caldera four pitches to realize this. On a 2-1 count the Saltdogs slugger blasted a three-run home run to give his team the lead (the three-run jack). He was not done (“He’ll be back!”).
In the bottom of the second, Caldera got the first batter of the inning out. He then allowed the next five to reach. Chris Anderson singled, and Mozingo followed with walk. Luis Nunez singled loading the bases, and Forgatch followed that with another free pass, driving in Anderson, making the score 4-1. That brought Gac to the plate again (the bases were packed).
In his first inning at-bat Caldera nibbled at the slugger at first, throwing two balls, and then challenging him. This time he came after Gac early in the count. A first pitch strike Gac flailed at with no results. Caldera’s pitch was then low and Gac fouled off the third pitch, putting him in the hole at 1-2. The Explorers starter was ahead of the Lincoln first baseman, however, just like his fourth pitch in the first inning, this one was deposited over the wall as well, this time for a grand slam, and the Saltdogs led 7-1 (it was like a six-pack + 1). Two swings of the bat and Gac had two home runs, two runs scored, seven RBI (what a huge impact), and a lot of upset RailCats fans (They felt whack).
In the third the Explorers put two on the board to pull within 8-3, but Lincoln added four more in the bottom of the fourth, and it was their All-Star first baseman who got it started. Wanting nothing to do with Gac (to pitch to him you’d have to be a maniac), Caldera walked him on five pitches. One out later Jeremy Hamilton walked, and Brandon Pinckney singled driving home Gac, and increasing the lead to 9-3. Mike Gilmartin then got into the act taking Caldera deep for his sixth home run of the year, and a 12-3 Saltdogs lead (The home run Gilmartin hit was racked).
The Explorers would chip away at that lead, scoring solo runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings (trying a sneak-attack), but it was way too little, way too late. Gac and his teammates had taken the first game of the series, and had grabbed first-place by a half-game over Gary. Nick Green did not have a particularly stellar outing (today he was a bit offtrack), but he benefitted from the offensive outburst to move to 4-5 on the year. Jake Meiers pitched three innings of effective relief for his first save of the year (he made sure the victory didn’t get side-tracked).
The two teams will be back at it tonight, with their star first baseman ready to take his bat attack back to the field to take another crack at Sioux City. It is likely that a stadium that is jam-packed will want to see Ian Gac take another whack at the pitches they hope he shellacs. While Gac has shown the knack for the dramatic whack, his teammates would love to see him have a throwback to today’s early game and hit an early big jack so he can keep his team on track, and ensure that the RailCats get the big holdback. Wow, that would sure be the best, I mean crackerjack.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA