Sermo Triple Sends Sioux City Explorers onto Championship Series, 5-2
For the second time in franchise history, the Sioux City Explorers are headed to the American Association championship series. Jose Sermo drove home two runs in the top of the 13th inning to lead the Explorers to the 5-2 victory over the Kansas City T-Bones, giving Sioux City the 3-1 series victory. Sermo had two hits and drove in three in the contest.
The Sioux City Explorers would strike right away in this contest. Jonathan Perrin started for Kansas City and retired the first two batters, but back-to-back walks to Nate Samson and Jeremy Hazelbaker kept the inning alive. That proved to be costly as José Sermo doubled in Samson to give Sioux City a 1-0 lead.
Perrin found himself on a short leash early on, and two walks in the second would eventually lead to his early departure. Perrin allowed a hit and four walks through two innings before being replaced by Akeem Bostick.
Bostick was dominating through his first two frames, retiring the first six batters he faced. However, in the top of the fifth Sebastian Zawada led off with his first homerun of the postseason to extend the Sioux City lead to two.
Taylor Jordan was pitching a superb ballgame early on for the Explorers. He retired the first eight batters of the game, finally seeing that streak come to an end when Ramsey Romano singled with two outs in the third. He would be left stranded, however. In the fourth, the Kansas City T-Bones would put two on with two outs when Stewart Ijames singled with one out and Casey Gillaspie reached on a walk. However, he was able to get Omar Carrizales to fly out to end the inning.
Finally, in the bottom of the fifth, Kansas City would get on the board. Following the Explorers scoring a run in the top half of the inning, the T-Bones responded with a run of their own. Jordan retired the first two batters of the inning, but Romano kept the inning alive with his second hit of the game. He would steal second, and score on a base hit by Dylan Tice. That made it 2-1.
Hunter Smith came on in the sixth for the Kansas City T-Bones and was absolutely brilliant. The reliever allowed a hit and a walk in his first inning of work, but struck out the side, all with the batter leaving the bat on his shoulder. In the seventh, Smith would retire the side in order, striking out two.
Despite giving up the run, Taylor Jordan was fantastic. He breezed through the sixth, retiring the T-Bones in order, and returned for the seventh. Carrizales led off with a base hit and Christian Correa moved him to second with a sacrifice. That would be it for Jordan. He went 6.1 innings, allowing five hits and a walk, while striking out two.
Jose Velez came on looking to strand the runner at second, and the Explorers would get a break when Shawn O’Malley hit the first pitch he saw for a soft single just out of the reach of Samson. Because Carrizales could not tell if Samson was going to make the catch, he had to hold at second. Velez then got Romano to hit a ball that may have been deep enough to score Carrizales from third had he been able to advance. Dylan Tice then struck out and the inning was over.
In the eighth, the T-Bones would tie the score. Danny Mars led off the inning by hitting a ball into the gap in left-center that he would leg out for a double. A ground ball moved Mars to third, bringing a call to the bullpen.
Tyler Fallwell came on and gave up a single to left that brought Mars around to score. Nava was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double, but the damage was done.
Neither team could score in the ninth, sending the contest to extra innings. After striking out the side in the ninth, Carlos Diaz returned for the 10th and retired the Explorers in order, striking out his fourth batter of the game.
Andre DiPiazza took over in the 11th and tossed two great innings, but the Sioux City Explorers took control in the 13th. After retiring the first batter, Samson and Hazelbaker followed with back-to-back singles. That brought Sermo to the plate, who drilled a ball toward the right-center field gap. Stewart Ijames tried to make an amazing diving catch, but it was just out of his reach, rolling to the warning track. That allowed both runners to come around to score while Sermo cruised into third. Dexture McCall followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2.
Matt Pobereyko had come on in the 10th and was absolutely brilliant. The Explorers closer would go four innings, allowing no hits and one walk to earn the victory. He struck out seven.
The victory sends the Sioux City Explorers to the championship series for the first time since 2015. They await to see who will win the series between the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and the St. Paul Saints. Game 1 will be in Sioux City on Wednesday night.
By Robert Pannier