ARTICLE COURTESY OF SIOUX CITY JOURNAL
SIOUX CITY | South winds gusting up to 30 miles an hour had the right-handed hitters licking their chops.
Veteran catcher Ray Serrano, though, knew the best plan was simply taking his normal swing.
And, by the time Serrano and the Sioux City Explorers were done thumping the Lincoln Saltdogs 15-6 Tuesday night at Lewis and Clark Park, the 31-year-old from Augusta, Ga., had two home runs and five runs batted in.
“If you look for that (hitting wind-aided homers) you’re probably going to struggle,’’ said Serrano, one of three Explorers with three hits in a game that saw seven players in the batting order enjoy multiple hit performances.
“That’s what I did the second time up and it didn’t work out so well,’’ said Serrano, whose first at-bat produced a home run that clanked off the top of the fence attached to the left-field foul pole.
An inning later, in the catcher’s second trip to the plate, a bases-loaded overswing turned into a squibber to the first baseman for the third out of the frame.
Later on, though, the third-year Explorers star hit an RBI single and then a three-run blast to left-center that probably needed no wing to carry.
The second homer was a resounding answer to a three-run shot by Lincoln’s Asif Shah, restoring a 12-5 cushion in the bottom of the seventh after Shah had slashed a 9-2 margin down to 9-5.
“You just have to stay compact and have good contact, just have the same stroke,’’ said Serrano.
Improving to 4-1 on the young season, the X’s hammered out a season-high 17 hits, reaching double digits in the hit column for the fourth time.
Meanwhile, No. 1 starter Nick Schumacher improved to 2-0 in as many starts, limiting the Saltdogs to two runs and four hits in the first six innings.
Schumacher’s seventh and eighth strikeouts had him an out away from keeping things that way after seven stanzas. However, Leugim Barroso’s two-out single was followed by a walk to leadoff man Mike Provencher, getting a favorable call on a 2-2 pitch that might have been strike three.
Shah, coming off a four-hit night in his team’s 9-8 loss in Monday’s series opener, sent Schumacher’s 104th pitch over the wall in left-center to add three meaningless runs to the ace righthander’s stats.
“We stretched (Schumacher) out to a hundred pitches (109) tonight and he got on a roll in the fifth, sixth and seventh,’’ said X’s Manager Stan Cliburn. “He got a ball up to the lefthander (Shah) and he got a ball up in the wind (for the home run). I don’t look at that as spoiling his performance. He gave us a tremendous outing.’’
“He was great once again, he’s going to be a horse for us just like he was last year,’’ said Serrano of his batterymate.
Red-hot shortstop Ryan Priddy, who came into the game batting a league-leading .533, added three more hits and pushed his average to .550 while rookie rightfielder Michael Lang matched Priddy’s three singles and drove in two runs.
Among four Explorers with two hits each were Brian Bistagne, the third player to be used in the designated hitter role in the season’s first week, and Wally Backman Jr., breaking out of an early season funk.
Backman’s two-run single in the fifth inning followed errors on back-to-back plays by the guests, snapping a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning. He added an RBI triple as the X’s added four in the sixth to four in the fifth. And, the hits just kept on coming as the winners tacked on three each in the seventh and eighth on the three-run homers by Serrano and Bistagne.
Veteran lefthander Jino Gonzalez didn’t make it out of the fifth inning for Lincoln, surrendering seven hits and five runs. However, three of those runs and two later tallies by Sioux City were unearned due to three errors, two of them by newly acquired second baseman D’Angelo Jiminez, an eight-year major leaguer, making his debut with the Saltdogs