Lang’s Big Play Gives Explorers 2-1 Victory Over Saints; Sioux City Advances
This was predicted to be a very close series between the Sioux City Explorers and the St. Paul Saints and Game 4 proved to be one of the closest imaginable. This game looked like it was going to be tied, but the play of the game came on a perfect strike from right fielder Michael Lang to the plate to preserve the lead and send the Sioux City Explorers onto the American Association Championship series.
One inning was the difference in the contest for much of the game. Eric Wordkemper got the start for Sioux City and he was absolutely brilliant for five innings. Robert Coe was nearly as spectacular for the St. Paul Saints, but the fifth inning proved to be the difference in the game.
Matty Johnson led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice by Lang. Rene Tosoni followed with a double over the left fielder’s head, scoring Johnson and making the score 1-0. Two batters later Noah Perio singled to right field bringing home Tosoni to make it 2-0.
The two-run lead really dampened the spirits of the crowd, as it seemed like the Saints chances of pulling this one out were slipping away with each inning. Wordekemper did such a great job keeping St. Paul from making any kind of real threat, allowing just 5 hits and walk through 5 innings, while striking out 7.
Coe had pitched well for five innings for the home team, and in the sixth the club turned to Mike Zouzalik. He was brilliant in keeping the Explorers from adding to their lead, going 3 innings, allowing 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 2.
Sioux City brought their own ace reliever in to begin the sixth. Rob Wort had been brilliant in this series, and had not been scored upon since June. This game looked like it was over, but there is no quit in this St. Paul Saints team. Ryan Cavan’s ground rule double got the inning going, and he moved to third on a ground out by David Espinosa. Vinny DiFazio was the next batter, and he came up clutch, ripping a base hit to right field to plate Cavan and cut the Explorers lead to one.
It the seventh it looked like this game was about to be tied. Nate Hanson led off with a single and moved to second when Willie Argo drew a walk two batters later. Alonzo Harris then worked the count full before ripping a base hit into right field. Hanson rounded third and looked like he would easily score, but Lang fired an absolutely perfect throw to the plate to nail Hanson for the second out of the inning. Wort then struck out Cavan to end the threat.
Jose Flores came in to try to close things out in the ninth. He struck out two of the three batters he faced, retiring the side on nine pitches to end the game, and send the Sioux City Explorers on the championship.
Tosoni was 3-5 with a run and an RBI for Sioux City. Johnson was 2-5 with a run and Perio was 2-3 with an RBI. Harris, DiFazio and Hanson each had two hits for the Saints.
It was an amazing season for the St. Paul Saints. A club record 74 wins and a record attendance were just the beginning of what an amazing year it has been.
By Robert Pannier