After obliterating the Wingnuts in Wichita a week ago, the Sioux City Explores welcomed their South Division rivals to town on Friday looking to extend their win streak to 10. Thanks to four early runs and three outstanding innings of relief from Ryan Flores, the Explorers walked away with a 4-2 victory. Jay Baum and Luis Durango each had 2-hits and an RBI to pace the Sioux City offense.
As they have done so often this season, the Sioux City Explorers took the lead in the bottom of the first. Luis Durango and Michael Lang led off with back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. Jay Austin followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Durango and it was 1-0 Sioux City.
The lead became three in the bottom of the second. Jay Baum started the inning with a double before Dexture McCall walked. Dylan Kelly then lined a ball up the middle for a base hit, bringing home Baum. Daniel Jackson moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice and Durango brought home the third run with a sacrifice fly.
Wichita had minimal success against James Dykstra through the first two innings, but would finally get on the board in the third. Nick Rotola singled with one out and moved to second when the throw from Dykstra was wild. Logan Watkins singled to put runners at first and third, and Rotola scored on a ground out to make it 3-1.
The Explorers got that run right back in the bottom of half of the inning. Austin and Nate Samson led off with back-to-back singles, before Jose Sermo hit into a fielder’s choice that put runners at the corners with one down. Baum worked the count full before singling to left to bring home Austin to make it 4-1.
The Wingnuts would respond with a run in the top of the fourth. John Nester doubled with one down and moved to third on a ground out. Ryan Flores came on for Dykstra and got a fly ball to center in what should have been the last out of the inning, but the ball was dropped, allowing Ryne Willard to reach and Nester to score to make it 4-2.
From there this was an incredible pitching duel. Flores (4-0) would toss three scoreless innings, allowing a single hit while striking out six. Pat Schuster threw one-third of an inning and Tyler Falwell came on in the eighth, allowing a walk but striking out the side.
Eric Karch came on in the ninth. He would load the bases on two singles and an intentional walk, but got Zach Nehrir to fly out to end the game. For Karch, it was his seventh save of the season.
Four different players in the Sioux City Explorers lineup had 2-hits in the game. That included Jay Baum, who was 2-4 with a run and an RBI. Luis Durango was 2-3 with a run and an RBI. Nick Rotola led the Wichita offense with 2-hits and a run scored.
The Explorers look to extend their winning streak to 11 on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier