Ino Patron Gives Sioux City Explorers Walk-Off Extra-Inning Victory, 6-5
For a time, it looked like the Sioux City Explorers were going to let a 3-0 lead slip away when the Wichita Wingnuts scored five-runs in the top of the fifth to take a two-run lead. However, the Explorers battled right back to tie the score and then the contest took on an even more tense atmosphere, as the two teams battled through three scoreless innings, sending the contest to extra-innings. That is when Ino Patron delivered a walk-off single that gave the Explorers the victory in Game 1 of the American Association Round 1 playoff matchup.
The Explorers jumped out to a quick one-run lead in the bottom of the first inning. Tim Brown retired the first batter of the inning, but Michael Lang followed by tripling to the wall in center. American Association MVP Nate Samson then hit a fly ball to center that was easily deep enough to score Lang and it was 1-0 Explorers.
It would stay that way through the first three frames as Brown and Sioux City starter Bryan Escanio both pitched well. Escanio found himself in some serious trouble in the third when he loaded the bases with no one out, but then pitched masterfully, getting two popups and a strikeout to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fourth his team would extend the lead. Tommy Mendonca started the inning with a single and scored when Patron doubled to make it 2-0. A sacrifice moved the runner to third, and Patron scored on a sacrifice fly by Derrick Robinson to make it 3-0.
The Wingnuts responded right away in the top of the fifth. Brent Clevlen and T.J. Mittelstaedt began the inning with back-to-back singles. Escanio then struck out American Association Rookie of the Year Matt Chavez, but Nick Van Stratten followed with a double that scored Clevlen to make it 3-1. A walk to Harrison Kain loaded the bases and that would be it for the Explorers starter.
PJ Francescon took over, but he could not stop the rally. Martin Medina greeted the reliever with a single to center that scored both Mittelstaedt and Van Stratten. An error on the throw to the infield allowed Medina to take second, and there were two runners in scoring position with just one out. Leo Vargas then grounded back to Francescon, who got Kain in a rundown before he was finally out on the fielder’s choice. Vargas alertly moved to second on the play, keeping two runners in scoring position, but there were now two outs. That brought Christian Stringer to the plate, who lined a single into left field, scoring both runners to give Wichita their first lead of the game, 5-3.
Sioux City would get one of those runs back in the bottom half of the frame. Samson led off with a single and moved to third on a base hit by LeVon Washington. Tim Colwell walked to load the bases, and that would be it for Brown. Mike Devine came on and induced a double-play, but Samson scored to make it 5-4.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Sioux City Explorers tied the score. Patron singled to start the inning and Johns then reached on an error by Devine. Two batters later, Lang singled to center to score Patron and the game was tied at five.
For the next three innings, both teams’ bullpens pitched masterfully. That included a Houdini like impersonation by reliever Rob Wort in the ninth inning. The Explorers right-hander saw the Wingnuts load the bases, but he got out of it to keep it a tie score.
In the tenth, Wort would keep the Wingnuts off the scoreboard for his third scoreless inning of relief. Frankie Reed came on in the bottom half of the inning for Wichita. He struck out Ralph Henriquez to start the inning, but Mendonca followed with a ground rule double to put the winning run at second. That brought Patron back to the plate and, on a 2-1 pitch, he singled. The throw to the plate was not in time to catch Mendonca, and the Sioux City Explorers grabbed Game 1, 6-5.
Wort (1-0) earned the victory, going 3-innings, allowing 3-hits and a walk. He struck out 4. Reed (0-1) took the loss.
Patron finished 3-4 with 2-runs and 2-RBI. Lang was 4-5 with a run scored and an RBI. Mendonca and Washington each had 2-hits.
Stringer was 2-3 with 2-RBI for Wichita. Clevlen and Van Stratten also had 2-hits apiece.
Game 2 is Thursday night in Sioux City. The Wichita Wingnuts will send 12-game winner Alex Boshers to the hill. He will be opposed by 11-game winner Cody Forsythe for the Sioux City Explorers. Game time is 7:00.
By Robert Pannier