Sioux City Explorers Dominate in Double-Header Sweep of Wichita Wingnuts
With the St. Paul Saints jumping out to such a fast start this season, and the Wichita Wingnuts looking much like last season’s team that won it all, most have been ignoring that fact that the Sioux City Explorers have the best record in the American Association. In fact, they have a good shot at breaking the record that Wichita set for wins in a season. Friday night the Explorers proved that they are the best team in the league, dominating the Wingnuts in a double-header sweep that showed that the road to the championship goes through Iowa.
In game one, it was a close game until the bottom of the fifth inning. Eddie Medina was opposed by Patrick Johnson in what had the makings of a classic pitchers’ duel. Johnson was absolutely dominant from the start. He allowed a lead-off double in the first, then got a ground ball out, before striking out the final two batters of the inning to retire the side.
In the bottom of the first his offense staked Johnson to a 2-0 lead. Matty Johnson led off with a double and Michael Lang followed with a single. Lang then stole second to put two runners in scoring position with no one out. Rene Tosoni’s sacrifice fly scored Johnson, and a sacrifice fly by Brock Kjeldgaard scored Lang to make it 2-0.
In the fourth Sioux City extended their lead. Tosoni began the frame with a walk and moved to second on a single by Kjeldgaard. Ryan Court’s base hit loaded the bases and a sacrifice fly by Tommy Mendonca brought home Tosoni to make it 3-0.
It was a very close contest through the first half of the game, but in the bottom of the fifth the Explorers blew it open. Brent Keys got it started by drawing a walk and moved to third on a base hit by Johnson. Lang was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with no one out. Medina was then pulled at that point for Iden Nazario.
Nazario looked to close the door, but Sioux City straight out kicked it open. Tosoni was hit by a pitch to score Keys. Next up was Kjeldgaard, who ripped a double to the wall. All three runners came home to make it 7-0. Noah Perio then drew a walk and Court singled to reload the bases and there was still no one out. Mendonca grounded to second but he reached on an error, scoring Kjeldgaard to make it 8-0. A sacrifice fly by Matt Koch finally retired the first Explorers hitter, but another run scored. Keys, the 1oth man to bat in the inning, brought Court home with a single and Johnson’s double plated Mendonca. Tosoni plated the last runner of the inning with another sacrifice fly.
The Explorers scored nine runs in the inning on just five hits. They had five sacrifice flies in the game, setting an American Association record.
The 12 runs were plenty enough for Johnson (14-1). The Sioux City Explorers ace scattered 6 hits in the complete game. The Wingnuts did score an unearned run in the seventh, but it was way too little. Johnson took over the American Association lead in wins.
In the second game it was another big inning that sealed the game. Max Beatty made his first start for the Wingnuts, but he would not make it out of the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman started for Sioux City and he retired the side in order in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the first, Johnson led off with a single on the first pitch he saw from Beatty. A fielder’s choice by Lang put a new runner at first. Tosoni then delivered a hit to score Lang to make it 1-0.
In the bottom of the second the Explorers extended their lead. Court singled to begin the inning. A wild pitch moved him to second, and Brendan Slattery walked to put two on with one out. A wild pitch moved both runners up, and Tim Colwell’s ground out scored Court to make it 2-0.
In the bottom of the fourth the Sioux City Explorers put the game away. Court walked to begin the inning. Back-to-back singles by Mendonca and Slattery loaded the bases for Colwell. He then drilled a double that scored both Court and Mendonca. Two batters later Slattery scored on a ground out by Lang and Tosoni scored Colwell to make it 6-0. Perio’s single plated Tosoni and it was a seven-run lead.
The onslaught was not over however. In the bottom of the fifth the home team would add two more runs. Mendonca reached on an error to start the frame, and back-to-back singles by Slattery and Colwell loaded the bases. A single by Johnson scored Mendonca and Lang scored Slattery with a sacrifice fly.
The nine-runs were plenty enough for Zimmerman (13-2). The right-hander was just as dominant as Johnson had been in the first game. He went 6 innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk, with no runs scored. He struck out 2 and lowered his league leading ERA to 1.90.
The hitting onslaught was an amazing run for the Explorers. Tosoni was 3-4 combined with 3 runs, 4 RBI and 2 walks. Johnson was 5-9 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. Court was 3-5 with 3 runs and 2 walks.
By Robert Pannier