Phil Pohl Powers Laredo Lemurs to American Association Title Series
Down 6-2 heading into the top of the fifth inning it looked like the Laredo Lemurs were going to be contemplating a season that ended prematurely. A three-run fifth inning made it a one-run game, and Phil Pohl’s three-run home run in the sixth gave the Lemurs the two-run lead over the Wichita Wingnuts. Closer John Brebbia came on in the sixth and pitched four perfect innings to send the Laredo Lemurs to their first American Association title series.
In a surprise move the Wichita Wingnuts went with Eddie Medina to start the game, and he pitched well in the first, but three errors by his team gave the Lemurs the lead. Ty Morrison led off the game with a single and Abel Nieves followed with a single of his own. An error by the center fielder allowed both runners to move into scoring position. Kevin Taylor was the next hitter and he grounded one back at Medina, but the Wingnuts starter misplayed the ball allowing Taylor to reach first to load the bases. Denis Phipps then grounded to the second baseman, who misplayed the ball to allow Morrison and Nieves to score. That made it 2-0.
The Wingnuts responded in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Van Stratten started the rally with a triple and two batters later Brent Clevlen doubled to bring Van Stratten home. Andy LaRoche followed with a two-run home run and just four batters into the bottom of the first Wichita had erased a two-run deficit and had the lead.
In the bottom of the second the Wichita Wingnuts added to their lead. Leo Vargas led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice by Taylor Smart. Van Stratten’s ground out moved Vargas to third and Taylor Oldham singled to score Vargas to make it 4-2.
In the bottom of the fourth Wichita extended their lead to four. Vargas started the inning with a single and Van Stratten moved Vargas to second with a single. A ground out by Oldham moved both runners into scoring position. Brent Clevlen walked to load the bases, and LaRoche singled to score Van Stratten and Vargas to make it 6-2.
This game looked like it was going to get out of hand quickly for the Laredo Lemurs, but a three-run fifth inning put the visitors right back in the contest. Drew Martinez started the fifth with an infield single and Juan Silverio followed with a single to put two on with no outs. Phil Pohl walked to load the bases and that would be it for Medina.
Alex Boshers was brought into the game to try to end the threat, but he could not do so. Morrison singled into center field to bring home Martinez and the deficit was down to three. Next was Nieves, who ripped a grounder to short, Vargas stopped the ball but had no play and Silverio scored. Kevin Taylor’s sacrifice fly brought home Pohl to make it a one-run game.
In the sixth Daniel Bennett took over for Wichita looking to hold the lead. He retired the first hitter on strikes, but Martinez got the rally going again by beating out an infield grounder for a single as well. Martinez then stole second before Silverio walked to put two on with one out. Pohl quickly worked the count to 2-1 before clearing the wall with a three-run homer to give the Lemurs their first lead since the first inning.
From there Brebbia took over. Lemurs manager Pete Incaviglia rolled the dice and brought in his closer in the sixth inning. The right-hander was just awesome, retiring the final 12 batters of the game in order, four of them on strikeouts. That ended the game and gave the Laredo Lemurs the 3-2 series victory.
The key to this game was the bottom of the Laredo order. Martinez, Silverio, and Pohl were a combined 5-10 with 6 runs scored and 3 RBI. Morrison and Nieves each went 2-5 with a run scored and an RBI.
Game 1 of the American Association Championship series will begin Wednesday night in Laredo. Matt Sergey is expected to oppose Ryan Zimmerman.
By Robert Pannier