SIOUX CITY | First came the triple by Tim Pahuta and then it was a run-scoring bunt single for Jared Clark.
The most improbable of the two? Hard telling, but it certainly wasn’t a textbook turn of events for American Association baseball’s second and third leading home run hitters.
No matter what, the modest two-out seventh-inning rally provided a crucial insurance run, helping the Sioux Falls Canaries turn back the Sioux City Explorers 5-3 Wednesday night at Lewis and Clark.
Clinching the season series for just the fourth time in the 21 seasons of the I-29 rivalry, Sioux Falls (39-55) improved to 8-5 with two games left against the Explorers (33-61).
At the same time they were snapping a five-game losing streak, meanwhile, the Canaries halted a three-game winning streak for the X’s, who have not won four in a row all season and had made it to three straight by winning 6-2 Tuesday night in the first game of this four-game series.
The teams move to Sioux Falls for Game 3 tonight and then return to Sioux City for the Explorers’ home finale on Friday.
Clark, who hit 24 home runs apiece in two of the last three years of a four-year stint in the Rockies’ farm system, made it to 20 for this season, third best in the league, with a second-inning clout to right-centerfield.
The former Cal State-Fullerton star also had an RBI single in the third inning before driving home yet another run with his improbable bunt in the seventh.
Pahuta, second in the league with 28 homers, appeared to have chalked up his 29th with a two-out blast in the seventh. However, the ball narrowly missed clearing the right-field wall, caroming back into the field of play as the 6-4, 245-pound Pahuta barreled into third base with a rare triple.
“The ball just bounced far enough away (from rightfielder Peter Barrows) that Timmy could make it to third,’’ said Sioux Falls Manager Steve Shirley. “Then, the bunt (by Clark) was all on his own. He saw the third baseman was far enough back and he dropped it in there.’’
“I knew (X’s Austin) Gallagher is kind of new to third base,’’ said Clark, the Canaries’ third baseman. “With a close ball game (leading 4-3), I figured it was a way I could get a run in.’’
Not only did Pahuta score easily, of course, but Clark had a base hit well before an errant throw on which he was unable to advance.
“I’m a good bunter, but I don’t do it that much, maybe three times ever,’’ said Clark.
Two walks, a wild pitch and a passed ball helped the Explorers draw first blood without benefit of a hit in the bottom of the first. However, the X’s trailed 4-1 heading into the home half of the sixth, when Barrows’ leadoff single and Sam Judah’s (pictured) two-out homer to left-center slashed the Canaries’ lead to 4-3.
Four Sioux Falls relievers, though, combined to blank Sioux City over the final three innings, presenting converted reliever Kyle Vazquez with his first win as a starter. Vazquez, 3-4 with two wins out of the bullpen, allowed just four hits and two earned runs in six innings of work.
Meanwhile, Sioux City’s rebuilt bullpen turned in another solid showing as three pitchers limited the Canaries to one run over the final five innings after the rocky start for Olson. Capping it off in the ninth was 6-9, 250-pound flamethrower John Holdzkom, fanning two batters in a 1-2-3 inning.
Article provided by Terry Hersom of the Sioux City Journal