Monarchs Hold Off Pesky Apollos to Take Series Opener
By: Jack Johnson
KANSAS CITY, KS — After sweeping the former first place Sioux City Explorers over the weekend, the Monarchs were in for a rude awakening despite their 10-8 win on Tuesday night. The win marks the club’s fourth consecutive win over a divisional opponent.
Kansas City handed the ball to Jameson McGrane, who was making his sixth start of the 2021 campaign. The right-hander was coming off a quality start at Sioux Falls, in which he logged six innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts. However, in the top of the first, McGrane struggled against the top half of the Apollos’ lineup. With runners at first and third, Aaron Takacs ripped an RBI-single to make it 1-0. Fortunately for the Monarchs, McGrane grinded through the frame and limited the damage to one run.
In the bottom of the first, Kansas City pounced on Houston starter Yosmel Naranjo. Darnell Sweeney, who had seven hits in the Sioux City series, jumped on a fastball and pounded it over the bullpen in left-center. The lead-off home run was Sweeney’s second of the month and fifth overall.
The Monarchs (31-18) battered Naranjo, again, in the home half of the second. Charcer Burks led off with a walk, Nick Franklin singled, and Colin Willis drove in the second run on an RBI-double to the gap in left-center. The barrage didn’t stop there, though. Later in the inning, Morgan McCullough singled in a run and Jan Hernandez followed up with a ringing RBI-single that scored two
Despite trailing 5-1, Houston (7-42) continued to give McGrane fits. In the top of the third, Hudson Bilodeau cut the deficit to three on an RBI-single up the middle, but the Apollos failed to plate anymore. However, the game spiraled in the ensuing inning.
Houston not only managed to tie the game in the fourth on a two-run shot by Dom DeRenzo, but they chased McGrane with one out in the inning. The right-hander’s five runs were the most he’s allowed in an outing this season.
Nearly missed in all the chaos was some more bad news for the Monarchs: after singling in his second at-bat, Franklin was pulled from the game with an apparent injury. As he walked off the field, Franklin had a noticeable limp. The 30-year-old missed the first two months of the season with a shoulder injury.
After coughing up the lead, Kansas City grabbed it right back in the bottom of the fourth. With the bases loaded, former Wichita State Shocker Casey Gillaspie smacked a bases-clearing double to give the Monarchs a 8-5 lead.
Houston, however, wouldn’t go gentle into the night. In the top of the sixth, the Apollos tagged newly acquired Justin Donatella for three runs on a game-tying three-run homer by Takacs.
In a 8-8 tie, the Monarchs’ offense needed a late rally to overcome their bullpen issues. In the home half of the eighth, they did just that. Following a lead-off double from Alexis Olmeda, Kansas City reclaimed the lead on an RBI-double by Sweeney and sacrifice fly from Hernandez.
In the final two innings, Brian Ellington and Carlos Diaz combined to close out the game and secure the Monarchs’ fourth consecutive victory.
The Monarchs will take on Houston in Game 2 of a three-game set tomorrow night. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. with the gates opening at 6:00 p.m. The game can be heard on the Monarchs Broadcast Network with the pre-game beginning at 6:35 p.m. and the video stream airing on aabaseball.tv.
WP: Shafer (4-2)
LP: Sylve (0-4)
S: Diaz (10)