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Towering rookie helps X's snag 2-1 win

Article courtesy of the Sioux City Journal

St. Paul, MN -Towering rookie righthander Max Whieldon combined with two relievers on a five-hitter Saturday night, helping the Sioux City Explorers snap a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the St. Paul Saints.

Jon Plefka and Eddie De La Cruz combined on three shutout innings after the 6-foot 10-inch Whieldon worked six strong innings in just his second professional start.

The matchup at Midway Stadium turned into a pitchers’ duel as three St. Paul hurlers combined to limit Sioux City to two runs on seven hits.

Brandon Newton led off the game with a single off St. Paul starter Chris Odegaard and moved to third base on ground balls by Yusuke Inoguchi and Wally Backman, Jr. With Ray Serrano at the plate, Newton scooted home on a costly wild pitch by Odegaard.

The Saints, riding a three-game winning streak, wasted no time knotting the score in the bottom of the first on a two-out double by Shane Costa and an RBI single by Ole Sheldon.

However, that would be the final run for the hosts, slipping to 5-4 on the strength of an unearned run in the third inning.

For Sioux City, also now 5-4, that decisive third frame saw Wally Backman, Jr. rap a one-out grounder that was misplayed by shortstop Tanner Townsend before Ray Serrano doubled and Tyler Goodro drew a two-out walk to load the bases.

Sioux City shortstop Ryan Priddy, charged with his fourth and fifth errors of the season in the contest, came through in the clutch with an RBI single to right field, plating Backman with what proved to be the deciding run.

Serrano, meanwhile, was thrown out at the plate, attempting to follow Backman home.

Whieldon allowed just one additional hit while working through the sixth, totaling 100 pitches on the night.

Then, adding a perfect seventh inning in relief, it was 6-foot 8-inch Jon Plefka, the other half of the X’s “Twin Towers.’’

Sidearmer Eddie De La Cruz finished it off, working the final two innings and escaping difficulty in either frame.

In the eighth, Jose Hernandez singled and Shane Costa followed with a bunt single to put two runners aboard with nobody out. Sheldon’s grounder to Priddy was turned for a big double play before a deep drive to right field was chased down near the wall by promising rookie Michael Lang.

Priddy’s second error came with one out in the ninth on a grounder by backup catcher Benji Johnson. And, Johnson moved into scoring position with two outs on a wild pitch before De La Cruz struck out Jake Krause to pick up the save.

Newton and Lang, the rookie out of Rutgers University who came into the game batting a team-leading .370, each had two of the Explorers’ seven hits on the night.

The teams close out a three-game series at 3:05 p.m. today. After a day off Monday, the X’s open a six-game homestand on Tuesday, launching a three-game series against Grand Prairie