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Explorers victorious in season opener

SIOUX CITY | A downpour less than two hours before game time may have scared away a large number of fans, but the Sioux City Explorers shrugged off a disappointing turnout Thursday night and got their American Association baseball season off on the right foot.


With puddles still lingering here and there at Lewis and Clark Park, the X’s turned to a pitcher with just the right name for a soggy evening of work, getting six solid innings from veteran Josh Rainwater in a 5-3 victory over the I-29 rival Sioux Falls Canaries.


And, while a quartet of relievers backed up Rainwater’s performance, the offense featured a big debut for another veteran newcomer as designated hitter Palmer Karr, Jr., went 3-for-3 with a two-run homer to ignite a three-RBI performance.


Outfielder Peter Barrows added a two-run triple that helped Manager Stan Cliburn’s team build a 5-0 lead after three innings and it was enough to weather a three-run seventh inning for the guests.


“What you hope for early is to get some of these guys in the roles you hope they’ll play,’’ said Cliburn, pleased with his bullpen. “We got (Jon) Plefka in there in the seventh, then our lefty, Josh Poytress, got a big out to start the eighth, (setup man Cody) Satterwhite finished off the eighth and (closer Chris) Bodishbaugh got the save.’’


Sioux City, playing a season opener at home for the first time in seven years, prevailed in a duel of seasoned righthanders. With a crowd of 1,306 on hand, the X’s spoiled the return to Sioux Falls for Ben Moore, who entered the game tied for the league’s career wins record of 39, hoping to claim the mark all to himself with No. 40.


“He was getting behind in the count early and we jumped on his fastball,’’ said Barrows, whose towering third-inning fly ball to left field was held in the park by a wind from the north, caroming off the wall to plate two runs and make it a 4-0 game.


Karr, who jumped on a 3-2 fastball from Moore for a two-run homer to open the scoring in the second inning, followed Barrows with his third RBI, stroking a run-scoring single through the left side.


“He’s a great pitcher,’’ Karr said of Moore. “He’ll throw anything at any time. Just to get a win against him is always a plus.’’


Moore, the league’s pitcher of the year in 2010 and 2011, spent part of last season at Bridgeport, Conn., in the Atlantic League before landing a job in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League.


And, despite the two big swings that essentially led to all five runs in this one, he still registered seven strikeouts in six innings, hiking his league career record to 484.


“That was a great ball game,’’ said Cliburn. “They shut us out (after the third inning) and gave themselves a chance to win.’’


The remainder of a four-game season-opening series will be played at the Bird Cage in Sioux Falls, where the series finale Sunday is at 1:05 p.m. after night games (7:05) tonight and Saturday.


The Explorers, then, return home Monday to launch a six-game homestand with a three-game interleague series against the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League.


Article provided by Terry Hersom, Sioux City Journal