A whole lot of teams have to feel cursed when facing the Sioux City Explorers these days, and the Wichita Wingnuts are no exception. Wichita carried an 8-2 lead heading into the top of the seventh only to watch that vaporize as Sioux City scored six in the seventh, six in the eighth, and six in the ninth on their way to a 20-10 victory. Jose Sermo drove in seven and Luis Durango had five hits to highlight an unbelievable offensive showcase by the Explorers. That ruined another solid outing by Travis Banwart, who allowed two runs in six innings of work.
After a scoreless first inning, the Wichita Wingnuts would take the lead in the second. Fernando Perez led off the inning with a single and John Nester doubled down the line in left field two batters later to put runners at second and third with one down. Logan Trowbridge followed with a single to center field to bring home Perez and Nester came home on a single to left by Hunter Clanin with two outs to make it 2-0. That brought Logan Watkins to the plate, who lined a ball down into the corner in right. Trowbridge easily scored and Clanin came home when Michael Lang threw into second, extending the lead to four.
The Sioux City Explorers responded with two runs in the top of the third. Travis Banwart retired the first two batters of the inning, but Lang tripled into left field before Jay Austin and Nate Samson walked. With the bases loaded, José Sermo blooped a single into right field, scoring two runs to make it a 4-2 ballgame.
With his team up by two, Tony Thomas extended the lead back to three. After Fernando Perez struck out, Thomas blasted his 10th homer of the year over the wall in left-center to make it 5-2.
In the fifth, Wichita extended their lead. Abel Nieves led off with a single and moved to second on a pickoff throw that was wild. With two down, Nester singled up the middle, bringing home Nieves and the score was 6-2.
The Wingnuts were not done. In the sixth, the first two batters struck out, but Watkins delivered a single to keep the inning alive. After Zach Nehrir walked, both runners moved up on a double steal. Nieves walked to load the bases, and Perez followed with a double down the line in right that brought Watkins and Nehrir home as Wichita was quickly pulling away.
Travis Barnwart (5-1) came out after 6-innings. He allowed 7-hits, 2-walks, and 2-runs, and had to feel pretty confident that he was about to earn his fifth victory of the season. However, things fell apart in the top of the seventh-inning.
Felix Carvallo came on and was immediately greeted by five straight hits. Daniel Jackson doubled into right and Durango followed with a double of his own, scoring Jackson. Lang then hit a hard chopper into the turf that bounced over Carvallo for a single. Next up was Austin, who hit a ball down the line in left field that fell in for a base hit. Thomas attempted to make a diving catch on the play, but the ball bounced over him and to the wall for a triple. Both runners scored and Austin would come home when Samson followed with a single up the middle.
That would be it for Carvallo, as Brady Bowen came on. He induced a pop-up by Sermo into shallow right field. Second baseman Ryne Willard called off right fielder Hunter Clanin, but the ball dropped in for an error. Samson held at first unsure if the ball would be caught. Clanin retrieved it and attempted to throw Samson out at second. His throw was wild, heading down into the Wingnuts bullpen. That allowed Samson to score and Sermo to race into third. Jay Baum followed with a double to score the runner and suddenly the game was tied. Bowen settled down and was able to retire the side to keep the score even.
Seth Harvey came on in the eighth, but the Sioux City Explorers’ bats were red-hot. Durango started the inning by reaching on an infield single. The throw from third was wild, allowing him to reach second. Lang was then hit by a pitch before Austin attempted to lay down a sacrifice. Another error by the third baseman allowed Austin to reach and suddenly the bases were loaded with no one out. Samson followed by grounding a ball into the hole at short that he beat out for a single. Durango scored on the play and Sermo followed with a deep drive over the right field wall for a grand slam to give Sioux City a five run lead. The onslaught was on and continued when Baum then drew a walk. He was replaced on the base path when Dexture McCall hit into a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, Jackson singled into center and McCall came home on a base hit by Durango to make it 14-8 Sioux City.
Onto the ninth the game went where the Explorers would put another six spot on the board. Mark Haynes took over in relief of Harvey and walked Austin before giving up a single to Samson. Sermo lined a single into center that scored Austin, the seventh run of the day that the third baseman had driven in. Two batters later, McCall singled into right, bringing Samson home. The route was on as Jackson would add an RBI when he was hit by pitch and Durango would drive in his third run of the game with an RBI single. A sacrifice fly by Lang brought home Dylan Kelly and Jackson scored on a double by Austin. That made it 20-8.
Wichita would score two meaningless runs in the bottom of the ninth. Fernando Perez hit his eighth home run of the season and Thomas scored on an error to cut the deficit to 10 but they would get no closer.
The Sioux City Explorers set American Association highs for 2018 with 20 runs scored and 24 hits. Luis Durango would finish 5-7 with 2-runs scored and 3-RBI. José Sermo was 3-6 with 3-runs scored and a single game-high of 7-RBI. Dexture McCall had 4-hits and Jay Austin scored 4-runs. Fernando Perez went 3-5 with 3-RBI in a losing effort for Wichita.
Sioux City will look for the sweep on Sunday afternoon. Game time is scheduled for 1:05.
By Robert Pannier