SIOUX CITY | If you thought the Sioux City Explorers would be mailing in this last week of American Association baseball games, think again.
Anthony Kaskadden (pictured) led a 16-hit attack with a 4-for-5 performance and the X’s opened their final home series of the season with a 6-2 victory over their I-29 rivals, the Sioux Falls Canaries.
Starting pitcher Cody Hall worked into the sixth inning and four relievers divided up the rest as the Explorers followed up wins in the final two games of a series in El Paso, achieving a three-game winning streak for the first time in over two months.
Pounding out 13 hits in seven innings against Ben Moore, the league’s all-time win leader, Sioux City made it three wins in a row for the first time since a victory June 25 produced the only other three-game winning streak since starting the season 3-0 against the Canaries.
“We’re just trying to let the guys play, try to let ‘em have fun,’’ said Ty Marotz, the Explorers’ acting manager. “I’ve been a part of enough difficult seasons, I know what it’s like, so we’d like to send them into the offseason on a more positive note.
“They’ve played real hard, but they’ve played hard all year. I really believe we have a good team, but we’ve played something like 53 games decided by two runs or less. I honestly think our record (34-60) could almost be the inverse of what it is.’’
Moore, falling to 9-8 on the season, wriggled out of difficulty in each of the first three innings before six hits in the fourth inning sent the Explorers in front to stay at 3-1.
Sam Judah delivered a two-run double after a bloop single by Peter Barrows and a double by Austin Gallagher. The rally was helped along when Moore neglected to cover first on a bouncer to the right side that turned into an infield single for Alberto Espinosa.
After Moore’s seventh of eight strikeouts on the night, Kaskadden sliced a run-scoring base hit into right field for the third run in the inning.
The Explorers added three insurance runs, getting solo homers by Barrows in the fifth inning and Leugim Barroso in the seventh before Kaskadden plated another run with his team’s third consecutive two-out single in the eighth.
“There’s no pressure on us at all right now,’’ said Kaskadden, a former Western Illinois standout who started the season on the bench, eventually winning the second base job with his remarkable range. “We’re just going out there and having fun .’’
Kaskadden, who raised his average 12 points to .252, moved into the leadoff spot for the first time last Thursday, when Marotz, filling in for suspended skipper Stan Cliburn, shuffled the lineup dramatically. Two days later, the new batting order erupted for a 17-4 rout of El Paso and followed that up Sunday with an 8-7 win over the Diablos.
“I’ve been a leadoff hitter my whole life, so it’s pretty natural for me,’’ said Kaskadden. “My job’s to get on base all the time.’’
Hall and all four relievers to follow him have all been acquired in the last two weeks after a variety of trades, injuries and other developments. The starter got a lift from lefty Mike Jefferson, striking out two of three batters he faced to finish the sixth, including Tim Pahuta, second in the league with 28 home runs.
Joe Zeller, making his X’s debut, and flamethrowing John Holdzkom each added a scoreless inning before Mike Hepple surrendered a harmless run in the ninth.
Article provided by Terry Hersom, Sioux City Journal