Francis Gem Spoiled by Explorers Comeback
By Ryan Zimmerman, Gary SouthShore RailCats
Gary, IN – The Gary SouthShore RailCats took control in the first eight innings of Saturday’s contest against the Sioux City Explorers, but the visitors came through with their backs against the wall. Five runs in their final turn at-bat stunned the hosts by turning a 3-1 lead into a 6-3 defeat.
From the outset, it looked as though the two teams were set for a pitcher’s duel. The two starting pitchers, Harrison Francis and Tom Windle carved through the other’s lineup to keep both squads out of the hit column during the first two frames.
Shortly afterward, the offenses began to appear as the Explorers broke through in the top of the third. Three consecutive one-out singles loaded the bases for the middle of the lineup, and Nick Franklin grounded a single into right field to plate the first run. But, as the X’s tried to bring another runner in to score, Alec Olund uncorked a throw to gun former RailCat Chase Harris at home to keep the deficit at one. The outfield assist marks his third of the season.
Another highlight-reel defensive play gave the RailCats a boost during the middle innings. Javeyan Williams flashed the leather once again on a full-extension diving catch that robbed Nate Samson of extra bases in the top of the fourth.
Sam Abbott and Tom Walraven capitalized on the momentum shift in the bottom of the fifth. The duo crushed back-to-back home runs which careened off the Diamond Club in right field and the scoreboard in left field respectively to put the RailCats in front for the first time 2-1.
The middle of the Gary SouthShore order added to their newfound advantage the very next inning. Michael Woodworth doubled to lead off and moved up to third immediately on a groundout. A misplay on a Zach Racusin slow roller to shortstop brought Woodworth around and added an insurance run.
In the meantime, Francis pitched brilliantly throughout his six-inning start. He allowed just one run on five hits, striking out eight without walking a single batter. Those eight strikeouts set a new season-high for the right-hander.
Jack Eisenbarger emerged from the bullpen in the seventh and picked right up where Francis led off. He fanned five Explorers over the next two innings to hold their offense in check and set the RailCats three outs away from their second win of the series.
However, down to their final three outs, the Explorers refused to go down quietly. An error and two singles cut the Gary SouthShore edge in half before home runs in consecutive at-bats, a three-run shot and solo home run respectively, capped off a five-run rally that provided Sioux City a 6-3 lead that carried them to a win.
The RailCats take to The Steel Yard to face these Explorers once more in the series finale tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. All the action can be streamed on aabaseball.tv, 95.9 WEFM, and the Gary SouthShore RailCats Broadcast Network through the Mixlr app.