Sioux City, IA-The Explorers kept their slim playoff hopes afloat with a thrilling 8-6 victory over Gary SouthShore Tuesday night at Lewis & Clark Park.
With the win, Sioux City (45-49) sits five games back with six left in the season. SouthShore (50-44) is tied for first with Lincoln after the Saltdogs shut out Sioux Falls 5-0 to draw even in the Central Division. The Explorers have won six straight over Gary and lead the season series 9-to-6.
After a scoreless first, Sioux City took the lead in the second. Doubles by Tom Mendonca and Dillon Usiak (pictured) gave the X’s their first run of the night. In the third, the Explorers used a four-spot to build a 5-0 cushion. Oscar Mesa led off the inning with an infield single. Tim Colwell followed with a single to center. Rene Tosoni walked to load the bases. Peter Barrows then cranked a line-drive single to left-center that scored Mesa and Colwell. A ground out by Andres Perez made it 4-0 as Tosoni scored from third on the play. Amos Ramon capped the inning with an infield single that brought home Barrows.
The RailCats dented the scoreboard with two in the fifth. Wally Backman led off the inning with a walk. The next batter, Drew Muren, smashed a deep home run to right-center that made it 5-2. Gary eventually took the lead in top of the sixth with four unearned runs. With two outs, Ryan Brockett reached on an infield single. Backman then walked. A fly-ball off the bat of Muren into left-center was dropped and both runners scored for a 5-4 game. Back-to-back singles by Danny Pulfer and Drew Martinez gave SouthShore a 6-5 lead.
The Explorers quick rebuttal in the bottom of the sixth proved to the difference. Tom Mendonca started the inning with a walk. With one out, Dillon Usiak scorched a line-drive single to right. Michael Lang tied the game with a double up the right field line. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch as Usiak raced home and Lang went to third. Oscar Mesa then made it 8-6 with a double on a ground ball that ricocheted off the pitcher’s glove and just past the diving second baseman into shallow right field.
Sioux City pitching retired the final ten Gary batters it faced. Kenny Long posted the win in relief. Long (2-0) went two-and-a-third and gave up two unearned runs on two hits with one strikeout. Stephen Bougher suffered the loss for the RailCats. Bougher (8-6) worked five-and-a-third and allowed seven earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Alex Burnett pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and notched his first save of the season for Sioux City.
The Explorers outhit Gary 11-to-7. Oscar Mesa finished 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run. Dillon Usiak went 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run. Peter Barrows drove in two and scored one. Every X’s batter except one had at least one hit on the night. For the RailCats, Zac Mitchell was 2-for-5. Drew Muren hit the homer and drove in two with two runs scored.
Sioux City has just two home games remaining. The Explorers face Gary SouthShore Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7:05. The team closes out the season with four games at Lincoln. For ticket information and promotion specials at Lewis & Clark Park, call 712-277-WINS or visit the Explorers website at www.xsbaseball.com.