FARGO, ND – The Sioux City Explorers (1-0) and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (0-1) had never met in the postseason in their long-time rivalry until Wednesday night at Newman Outdoor Field. It took one wild drama filled game between the pair to make up for years of missed playoff matchups.
The X’s would go in order in the top of the first off lefty Kevin McGovern (0-1). Austin Drury (1-0) would get the first two batters before a pair of back-to-back hits by Leo Pina and John Silviano put two on with two outs. Drury then struck out Scott Schreiber to end the first with the two teams scoreless.
In the top of the second, Matt Lloyd would lead off the inning with a solo home run to right to make it 1-0 Sioux City. The X’s then got a double from Wilfredo Gimenez and a one out single from Tyler Rando to put runners at the corners. McGovern would retire the next two batters to keep it 1-0.
In the bottom of the third, BJ Lopez led off with a single off Drury. The lefty then would get the next two batters before Pina hit a fly ball to center that was dropped on running in catch by Chase Harris. Silviano would hit a three-run home run to right to give the RedHawks a 3-1 lead.
Sioux City would come right back and answer the three unearned runs in the top of the fourth. Sioux City got a Lloyd single and Gimenez would walk as the first two batters reached off McGovern. Kyle Kasser’s bunt forced Gimenez out at second to put runners on the corners. Harris would step up and deliver an RBI single up the middle to cut the lead to 3-2. Delvin Zinn then tied the ball game with a double down the left field line. Daniel Lingua appeared to give the X’s a lead on a two RBI double down the right field line. The RedHawks would appeal at first after the play was over that Lingua missed the bag at first. On the appeal Lingua was ruled to have missed first base and the inning was over. There was confusion if the two runs scored for Sioux City would stand. The scoreboard had the game tied while the press area seemed to think the runs counted. That confusion carried over into the next inning.
The RedHawks would threaten in the bottom of the fourth with Manny Boscan and Correlle Prime reaching on singles. Sam Dexter tried to bunt the pair up a base, but Drury fielded the hard-hit bunt back to the mound and threw out Boscan at third for the first out. Drury would get the next two batters to end the inning. After the half inning crew chief Jett Minton and first base umpire Nicholas Webb would leave the field after a conference with both team managers. When they returned it appeared that the game was in fact tied at three. That would not last.
In the top of the fifth inning Scott Ota and John Nogowski reached on singles off McGovern. Lloyd would pick up his third hit of the night bringing home Ota to break the deadlock and give Sioux City the lead 4-3. Gimenez would walk to load the bases. Kasser would then single to right to score Nogowski to increase the lead to 5-3. Left-hander Ben Holmes came in for McGovern and struck out Rando for the first out of the inning. The X’s then worked back to back bases loaded walks from Harris and Zin to score two more runs and give Sioux City a 7-3 lead. The final run came on a fielder’s choice from Lingua to give Sioux City an 8-3 lead.
Fargo-Moorhead scored their only earned run off Drury in the bottom of the fifth on a two out RBI single from Boscan. Drury tossed five innings giving up one earned run to get the win for Sioux City. Parker Carraci would work 1.2 innings followed by Carlos Diaz who added another scoreless inning of relief for the X’s. Max Kuhns would get the final out of the eighth inning and take the hill in the ninth after the Explorers went in order in the top of the frame.
Kuhns would retire Olund on a ground out but an infield single that took a bad hop off Nogowski allowed Dillon Thomas to reach first. Pina then would walk to put two on and force the Explorers to bring closer Sean Rackoski into the game. Rackoski struck out Silviano for the second out of the inning, but a passed ball on Gimenez moved the runners up a base. With Schreiber batting, another passed ball scored both runners to cut the lead to 8-6. Rackoski would end the game by striking out Schreiber to give Sioux City a one game to none series lead. The Explorers need one more win to move on to the West Division Championship Series in the race for the American Association Championship and the Miles Wolff Cup.
The Explorers will be off Thursday, September 7 and return to Mercy One Field at Lewis and Clark Park Friday, September 8 for game two of the series against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Game three (if necessary) is scheduled for Saturday, September 9 at 6:00 p.m. at Lewis and Clark Park. Tickets for the postseason can be purchased online at XSBaseball.com, in person at the Lewis and Clark Park Box Office or by calling 712-277-WINS. You can catch all the X’s action on aabaseball.tv and on radio at Q 102.3 FM with the pregame beginning 30 minutes prior to first pitch.