Laredo Lemurs Down Sioux City to Claim American Association Title; Brebbia Named MVP
In just their fourth year of existence, the Laredo Lemurs have gone from a team that made the playoffs two of their first three years in the Texas city to American Association champions. After losing the first game of the championship series, the Lemurs swept the final three, including winning the deciding Game 4, 12-5. That gave manager Pete Incaviglia his second American Association title (he won the title with Grand Prairie in 2011).
The game had the makings of a real pitchers’ duel. Matt Sergey started for the Lemurs, and he had not been scored upon since joining Laredo. Eric Wordekemper was the starter for Sioux City, and he was coming off five-shutout innings in the clinching divisional series victory against St. Paul. It looked like this could be a 2-1 final, but the contest was anything but.
Laredo got the scoring started in the top of the first inning. Ty Morrison led off the game with a single and moved to third on a base hit by Abel Nieves and an error by the left fielder. Kevin Taylor’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Morrison and the Lemurs were up 1-0.
The Sioux City Explorers responded immediately in the bottom of the first. Matty Johnson got the inning started by drawing a walk and Michael Lang followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice. Lang then stole second and scored on a base hit by Brock Kjeldgaard. That tied the game at one.
In the top of the second the Lemurs retook the lead and they would not relinquish it. Juan Silverio singled with one out and then stole second. Wordekemper struck out Roger Bernal to make it two down, but Morrison kept the inning alive with a clutch single that scored Silverio. Nieves then ripped a double into the gap that brought Morrison all the way around to score to make it 3-1.
Sergey had not been scored upon in his first 26 innings with the Lemurs, but in the bottom of the second he was to give up his second run in as many innings. Tommy Mendonca doubled with one out and scored on a base hit by Brian Keys. Sergey got Johnson to fly out to shallow right field to end the inning however and keep the Lemurs on top.
The Lemurs had won both of their previous two games with one big inning providing all of their runs. That would not be the case on this evening. In the third inning they would add another run, the third straight inning in which they had scored. Travis Denker doubled with one out and Drew Martinez brought him home with an RBI single.
In the fourth the Explorers got one of those runs back and cut the deficit to two. Sergey retired the first two hitters of the inning, but then gave up a single to Keys and walked Johnson. Lang followed with a single that scored Keys and that would be it for Sergey. Cody Kendall took over and got the final out to end the threat.
In the fifth Juan Silverio put this game away with one swing of the bat. Denker walked with one out, and Wordekemper was relieved by Jimmer Kennedy. Kennedy got Phil Pohl to fly out for the second out of the inning, but then gave up a single to Martinez. Silverio missed on Kennedy’s first pitch, then took a ball to make it 1-1. On the next pitch he crushed it over the wall for a three-run home run to make it 7-2.
The Explorers got one of those runs right back in the bottom of the fifth. Kjeldgaard led off the frame with his first home run of the playoffs and it was 7-3.
The five-run lead was restored immediately in the top of the sixth. Closer Jose Flores took over the pitching for Sioux City and retired the first hitter of the inning before giving up a single to Nieves. Two batters later Denis Phipps singled, moving Nieves to third and he scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the seventh the Explorers added another run. Rene Tosoni singled to get it started and moved second on a ground out. A walk to Noah Perio put two on and John Brebbia came out of the bullpen. He gave up a single to Ryan Court that scored Tosoni and it was 8-5. That was as close as Sioux City would get.
In the top of the ninth the Laredo Lemurs ended any hopes the Explorers had, plating four runs on five hits. Silverio, Bernal, and Morrison delivered back-to-back-to-back RBI singles that made it 11-5. Taylor’s sacrifice fly brought home Bernal with the game’s final run.
In the bottom of the ninth Brebbia got two ground outs and strikeout to end the contest as the Laredo Lemurs poured onto the field as League champions. Luis De La Cruz earned the win. Brebbia was named the Minor League Sports Report MVP of the American Association playoffs. The Lemurs closer saved all three wins in the championship round, and two in the divisional series. Three of his saves were at least 2.2 innings long. He finished the post-season allowing 9 hits, 2 walks and no runs in 13.1 innings pitched with 16 strikeouts.
The Laredo Lemurs had huge days offensively from five players who each had at least three hits. Nieves and Martinez both went 4-5, with Nieves scoring a run and driving in another and Martinez scoring two and driving in a third. Morrison was 3-6 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. Silverio was 3-5 with 3 runs scored and 4 RBI. Denker was perfect on the day, going 3-3 at the plate, walking twice and scoring 3 runs.
By Robert Pannier