Drury, Explorers Blank Milkmen in Finale
By Dan Vaughan, Jr., Sioux City Explorers
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – On July 22, two days after Scott Ota joined the team, he was penciled into the lead off spot for the Sioux City Explorers. Up until that point of the season, the X’s had used five different leadoff hitters in the team’s lineup. The sixth player to hold that spot in the lineup card has taken the opportunity by storm going 38-for-112 (.339) in that time frame. Thursday night, Ota provided the timely offense, with a sixth inning two run home run, to break a scoreless tie as the Sioux City Explorers (47-42) would claim a series clinching 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Milkmen (51-39).
Austin Drury tossed six shutout innings inducing three double play balls off the bat of Miguel Gomez. The three “pitcher’s best mates” by Gomez would tie an American Association mark for grounding into double plays in a game by a single player. Drury would pick up the first of the twin killings in the first inning when the Milkmen threatened to take the lead with the bases loaded. A 5-4-3 ground out by Gomez kept the game scoreless.
With the game goose eggs in the top of the third the Milkmen would load the sacks once again. Drury then buckled down and was able to get Gomez to bounce out 6-4-3 with one out to keep Milwaukee from taking the lead. In the fifth inning, Drury got a ground ball to short from Roy Morales that Delvin Zinn made a terrific off-balance throw to first on that ended the top of the frame. It would be Zinn, who would lead off the home half of the fifth with a double off the wall in left off Milwaukee starter Ryan Zimmerman (9-3). Chase Harris then moved Zinn to third with a sac bunt. Ota stepped up and hit a blast down the right field line to make it 2-0 Sioux City. It was his sixth circuit of the season and gave him 21 RBI in 30 games. Zimmerman would get tagged with a hard luck loss going seven innings surrendering two runs on five hits.
Drury was back out in the top of the sixth and would execute the shutdown inning. Gabriel Cancel would single, but another 5-4-3 double play picked up the first two outs of the inning. Drury would strike out Drew Ward to end the inning. Brandon Brosher would work two scoreless relief innings for Drury as the X’s came to the plate in the home half of the eighth.
Matt Lloyd would double off Milwaukee left-handed reliever Jack Mahoney to start the bottom of the eighth. John Nogowski reached on an error by third baseman Cam Balego, moving Lloyd to third. Jake Ortega would execute a sac bunt to first to score Lloyd from third to make it 3-0 in favor of Sioux City. Mahoney would uncork a wild pitch to move Nogowski to third, while Wilfredo Gimenez would work a walk to put runners at the corners. Tyler Rando would deliver a pinch-hit RBI single to right to make it 4-0 Explorers.
Sean Rackoski worked a 1-2-3 top of the ninth including a strikeout of Ward to finish off the game. The win for Sioux City extended the Explorers lead to two games over third place Sioux Falls in the American Association West Division. Ota has gone 10-for-24 in a five-game hitting streak for Sioux City, while the win puts the Explorers at 13-7 in the month of August.
The Explorers final homestand of the season continues Friday night August 25 with game one of a three-game series against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks at 7:05 p.m. Tickets for the season can be purchased online as XSBaseball.com, in person at the Lewis and Clark Park Box Office or by calling 712-277-WINS. You can catch all the X’s action on aabaseball.tv and on radio at KSCJ 94.9 FM and 1360 AM with the pregame beginning 30 minutes prior to first pitch.