Michael Lang Guides Explorers Offense in 9-8 Victory
With Lincoln winning Friday night, the Sioux City Explorers needed a victory to keep pace in the Central Division and, thanks to Michael Lang, Sioux City was able to jump out to a 7-2 lead before hanging on for a 9-8 victory over the St. Paul Saints. Lang finished with two hits, including his third home run of the season, and PJ Francescon closed out the game for his 13th save of the year.
The Explorers jumped out to a three-run lead in the bottom of the first against Saints ace Mark Hamburger. Tony Campana led off the frame with a single and moved to third on a Joe Bennie double. Jayce Ray then lined a single up the middle that brought home Campana before Tyler Ogle singled up the middle to score Bennie to extend the lead to two. With one down, Joel Davis hit a sacrifice fly that brought home Ray to make this game 3-0.
St. Paul would get one of those runs back in the top of the second. Anthony Gallas led off the inning with a walk and moved to third on a base hit by Kes Carter two batters later. Mitch Delfino plated Gallas with a sacrifice fly to make this a two-run game.
The Explorers did a little responding of their own in the bottom half the inning. After former Saint Tanner Vavra singled to start the inning, he moved to second on a base it by Campana and scored on a sharp single by Ray. That extended the lead back to three.
Once again, St. Paul would respond with a run. Tim Colwell led off the inning with a double and stole third before Brady Shoemaker walked. With runners at the corners and one down, Gallas hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Colwell to make it 4-2.
In the bottom half of the third, the Sioux City Explorers would take a commanding lead. After Hamburger retired the first batter of the inning, Lang and Davis followed with back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. That brought last night’s hero to the plate, Dre Gleason, who hit a sacrifice fly that scored Lang. Vavra then reached on an error that brought Davis home, and Vavra scored on a base hit by Campana.
Trailing by five, St. Paul responded with two runs in the top of the fourth. Chris Powell retired the first two batters of the inning and looked like he was going to escape the inning completely unscathed, but Maxx Garrett was able to reach on an error before Jon Kristoffersen hit his second home run of the season to make this a 7-4 game.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Explorers would extend their lead back to four. Davis singled to start the frame
and moved to second on a passed ball. With two down, Campana walked before Bennie grounded a single up the middle that scored Davis to make the score 8-4.
The Saints responded all night long after the Explorers had scored runs, and that was no different in the sixth. Delfino singled to begin the inning and moved to third on a double down the line by Garrett. With second and third and no one out, Keith Picht came on for Powell and struck out the first batter he faced. Colwell became the second out with a sacrifice fly that scored Delfino but, once again, an error allowed the inning to continue as Ben Buerkle reached on a miscue by the first baseman that scored Garrett to make it 8-6.
Sioux City got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the Ending. With two down, Lang hit his third home run of the season to make it 9-6.
The Saints got that run back in the top of the eighth using the long ball. With two down, the struggling Breeland Almadova drilled a shot over the wall in left-center for his third homer of the year.
That brought on PJ Francescon in the top of the ninth looking to close the game out. He was greeted by a base hit by Nate Hanson who would move to third on a single by Delfino two batters later. With runners at the corners and one out, Garrett delivered a sacrifice fly that made this a one run game. This had become a true nail-biter, but the Sioux City Explorers closer got a fly out to the right fielder to and the game for his 13th save the season.
Tony Campana was 3-3 with a run and an RBI. Jayce Ray finished 3-5 with a run and an RBI, and Michael Lang was 2-5 with 2-runs and an RBI. All but one player in the starting lineup had an RBI and every starter had at least one hit as Sioux City rapped out 18-hits in the contest. Mitch Delfino was 3-4 with a run and an RBI for the Saints.
The final game of this two-game set is scheduled for tomorrow. First pitch is set for 7:00.
By Robert Pannier