Patrick Johnson Leads Sioux City Explorers to Must-Win Victory: Lincoln Line
The Sioux City Explorers entered Sunday’s game against the Lincoln Saltdogs in desperate need of a victory. They trailed the Saltdogs by 7.5 in the Central Division and had lost two of the three games at home against Lincoln. Another loss on Sunday and their hopes at staying in the pennant race would have been over. Explorers’ starter Patrick Johnson understood this and came up with a huge outing to lead Sioux City to a 7-1 win.
Sioux City got out on top from the first inning. Johnson cruised through the first frame, retiring the Saltdogs in order. In the bottom half of the inning Oscar Mesa doubled and Tim Cowell followed with a double to make it 1-0. Two outs later the Explorers loaded the bases on two walks, and Amos Ramon doubled to clear the bases and put the Explorers up 4-0. That is all the run support that Johnson needed.
In the second inning Johnson established that this was going to be his night. Ian Gac led off with a fly ball to center field for the first out. Then Johnson stepped it up, striking out Brain Joynt and Matt Forgatch swinging. It took just 11 pitches to get out of the inning, and it was clear it was going to be a long night for Lincoln.
In the third the Saltdogs were able to mount a rally and get on the board. Omar Luna walked with one out and Tyler Smith followed with a single to advance Luna to second. After Chad Mozinga popped out to third Luis Nunez singled to right field scoring Luna. The inning could have been worse, but RF Peter Barrows made a perfect throw to Amos Ramon to gun down Smith at third and end the inning.
One inning later the Explorers got back on the board. Michael Lang singled to lead off the inning, stole second base and advanced on a throwing error to get to third. After Mesa walked, Cowell singled to drive home Lang, and the four-run lead was restored.
The score would remain this way until the seventh when Sioux City mounted another rally. Jhonny Montoya was on the mound for his second inning of work and got into trouble right away. He gave up a single to Brock Kjedgaard to start the inning, and then hit the next two batters. A double play scored the sixth run of the game, and then three straight walks issued by Montoya and Trey Barham closed out the scoring.
Meanwhile, Johnson was on fire. After giving up a run in the third he gave up just one single in the next three innings. In the seventh he gave up a single and a walk, and it appeared that he may be tiring, however he got Luna to fly out to end the inning. In the eighth he struck out the first batter of the inning, but with 111 pitches thrown Manager Steve Montgomery had decided that Johnson had pitched long enough. The lefty finished with three hits and three walks allowed, while striking out seven. With the victory he moved to 8-5 on the year.
The victory was critical for the Explorers. They now move onto play Sioux Falls in a three-game series starting on Tuesday. The Saltdogs find themselves in a very precarious situation however. They go to Wichita to face the league leading Wingnuts, while trying to hold off Gary in the Central Division. The RailCats welcome the Saints, currently on a 9-game losing streak, and this should be a serious concern for Lincoln. They need to get at least one if not two in Wichita before welcoming the Saints themselves.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA