The Sioux City Explorers looked like they had their game against the Sioux Falls Canaries in the bag, but an eighth inning rally brought the home team within one, and the Explorers had to hold on for the 5-4 win. Despite the comeback, it was an exceptional outing for the club’s pitching staff that evened the team’s record at 2-2.
The Canaries sent Shawn Blackwell out as their starter, and the righty struggled early, giving up a single run in each of the first two innings. In the top of the first Matty Johnson led off the game with a single, and moved to third on a base hit by Rene Tosoni. Brock Kjeldgaard drove home Johnson on a ground ball that was misplayed by the shortstop and Sioux City was leading 1-0.
In the top of the second Matt Koch doubled with one out and scored when Noah Perio drove him home with a single to right field. In the fourth the visitors added another run. Tim Cowell doubled to begin the inning and Koch followed with a walk. Two batters later Cowell scored on a head’s up play that made it 3-0.
In the seventh Sioux City was at it again, and not surprisingly Matty Johnson got things going. The Explorers center fielder walked to start the inning and advanced to second on a single by Michael Lang. Tosoni came to bat and ripped a double to center field that scored Johnson. That would bring Bryon Minnich in to relieve. He retired all three batters he faced, but a ground out scored Lang to make it 5-0. At the time that fifth run seemed like it was just piling on, but it would become the most crucial run of all.
Dustin Loggins had cruised in his five innings of work for Sioux City. The right-hander allowed just one hit, but he had been a bit wild around the plate, walking six, while striking out two. Most importantly, he had kept Sioux Falls off the scoreboard.
Rob Wort relieved for the Explorers in the sixth and he, too, had great success against the Canaries in his first two innings of work, but the eighth inning would not be kind to him. Tony Viger led off with a single and moved to second two batters later on a single by Vickash Ramjit. Jerome Pena walked to load the bases and that brought Brian Humphries to the plate. He ripped a single to center field that scored Ramjit and Viger, and that would be it for Wort.
Billy Bullock relieved and struck out David Bergin, but Michael Wing doubled to plate both runners and make it 5-4.
That set up the ninth to be a very exciting one. Sioux City sent Jose Flores in to close out the game. He recorded the first out, then gave up a single. That brought Viger to the plate who swung at Flores’ first offering, grounding it to short for the easy 6-4-3 double-play to end the game.
Loggins (1-0) earned the win for the Sioux City Explorers. Flores earned his second save. Blackwell (0-1) took the loss.
By Robert Pannier