Canaries Pitchers Hold Milkmen Down to Stay Alive, 5-3
It was desperation time for the Sioux Falls Canaries who found themselves one game away from being swept in the American Association Championship series. However, desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures and the Canaries used an unorthodox plan that led to the pitching staff holding down the Milwaukee Milkmen in a 5-3 win that kept the team’s hopes alive. Jabari Henry helped supply the offense, homering and driving in two.
Sioux Falls Manager Mike Meyer opted to go with an unusual approach to the game, starting Tyler Danish who had been dominant in Game 2. Danish went just the one inning, retiring the side in order before turning the game over to Jake Zokan.
However, before Zokan came out for the second, the Canaries scored first for the first time in the series. With one down, Andrew Ely laced a double down the line. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Clint Coulter singled into left to give Sioux Falls a 1-0 lead.
Zokan came out in the second with the lead and pitched very well, retiring the Milkmen in order.
His team rewarded him with two more runs in the bottom of the second. Alay Lago led off with a base hit and came around to score when Jabari Henry drilled a ball to the wall for a double. A ground ball by Roy Morales moved Henry to third and he scored on a ground out by Michael Hart. That made it 3-0.
In the third, Zach Nehrir continued his torrid championship series, leading off with a double to give Milwaukee their first baserunner of the game. However, Zokan was unfazed, striking out the next two batters before getting Brett Vertigan to fly out to end the inning.
In the fourth, it looked like Milwaukee would get right back into the game when Zokan walked the first three batters of the inning to load the bases with no one out. The right-hander showed some real moxie though, getting David Washington to pop out before inducing Mason Davis to hit into a double-play, leaving the Milkmen coming away from the inning empty-handed.
Buoyed by the performance of their Zokan, the Sioux Falls lineup added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Milwaukee starter Tim Dillard struck out both Damek Tomscha and Alay Lago to start the frame, but the third out proved to be elusive for the former Major Leaguer. Jabari Henry drilled a 2-2 pitch for his second homerun of the series to extend the lead to four. Morales followed with a single to keep the inning alive, bringing Hart to the plate. He drilled the first pitch he saw from Dillard into the gap for a double. Morales came all the way around to score to make it a 5-0 game.
Zokan came on for the fifth and gave up a one-out hit but retired the final two batters to keep the Milkmen off the scoreboard. Zokan came out to face one batter in the fifth but left after tossing six pitches. Zokan (1-0) went four-plus innings, allowing two hits and three walks. He struck out four.
Kevin Folman came on and was brilliant, tossing two scoreless innings. The only Milwaukee hitter to reach was when Washington walked to start the seventh, but he was left stranded at first.
In the bottom of the seventh, it looked like the Canaries would extend their lead, but a nice play by Davis kept the team off the board. Grant Kay was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Karch Kowalczyk struck out the next two batters, but Coulter kept the inning alive by working the count full before drawing a walk. That brought Tomscha to the plate. He grounded a ball to short that Davis was able to knock down but had no play. At least it looked that way at first. Kay opted to round third and try to score, but Davis alertly fired a strike to home plate, easily nailing Kay to end the inning.
Ryan Fritze came on in the eighth and found himself in some trouble but did an amazing job of pitching out of a jam. Logan Trowbridge led off with a walk and moved to third when Dylan Tice doubled two batters later. Fritze then coolly struck out Walker before walking Jose Sermo to load the bases. That brought Washington to the plate, who lined a ball toward left-center that looked like it might drop in, but Logan Landon raced to his right to make the play and leave the Milkmen unable to score with the bases loaded for the second time in the ball game.
Keaton Steele came on in the ninth for Sioux Falls and the Milkmen made this game interesting. Nehrir and Christian Correa drew back-to-back walks with one down. Steele struck out Logan Trowbridge, but Vertigan turned on an 0-1 pitch, drilling it just over the wall in right-center for a three-run homer. Suddenly the Milkmen were back in the contest, but Steele was able to get Tice to fly out to close out the ballgame.
Henry finished 2-2 with two runs, a double, a homer, two RBI, and two walks for the Canaries. Roy Morales had three hits and Mike Hart drove in two.
Game 5 will be Thursday in Sioux Falls. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier