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Bullpen helps X's hike mark to 3-0

SIOUX FALLS | A 5-0 cushion nearly vanished with two swings of the bat here Saturday night, but the Sioux City Explorers’ bullpen sparkled for the third night in a row as the X’s clipped the Sioux Falls Canaries 5-4 to remain a perfect 3-0 after three 2013 starts.


With well over 3,000 Sioux Falls fans in the seats for the second consecutive game, Sioux City plated two runs in the first inning and one each in the second, fourth and fifth to back rookie righthander Andy Noga.


However, the Canaries chased the 23-year-old Pennsylvanian with a pair of two-run homers in the sixth inning, pulling within a single run before a quartet of Explorers relief pitchers recorded the final 11 outs without surrendering a hit.


Rightfielder Peter Barrows continued to swing a hot bat for the X’s, going 3-for-4 and driving in two runs to hike his three-game batting average to .462.


Eliezer Mesa and Yusuke Inoguchi, the first two batters in the order, chipped in two hits apiece for the second straight game while catcher Alberto Espinosa also contributed a pair of singles for Manager Stan Cliburn’s team.


Mesa doubled to open the game off 6-7, 235-pound lefthander Andy Champion and moved to third on a passed ball before a run-scoring single by Inoguchi. Barrows, who now has six RBIs in the first three games, made it a quick 2-0 lead with a double into the left-field corner.


Anthony Kaskadden’s two-out single turned it into a 3-0 lead in the second inning after the rookie second baseman stole second and scored on a base hit by Mesa.


The X’s made it 4-0 in the fourth on a triple by Leugem Barroso and an RBI single by Espinosa. Then, in the fifth, Inoguchi reached on a bloop single, moved up on a groundout by Wally Backman, Jr., and scored on a single by Barrows.


That would be all for Sioux City, but the Canaries, limited to two hits in a 3-0 loss Friday night, had only a pair of singles when Nick Van Stratten led off the sixth inning with a walk.


It was a rare free pass from Noga, who walked just five batters in 72.1 innings for East Stroudsburg State two seasons ago, leading NCAA Division II in walks per nine innings. Two batters later, though, J.P. Ramirez made the base on balls count with a home run to right field.


John Alonso, next up for the Birds, reached on an error by third baseman Bryan Pounds and the hosts capitalized yet again on a two-run homer by Jared Clark that slashed the margin to 5-4.


Then came the big showing by the Sioux City bullpen, starting with Cuban import Yunier Colon, shaking off a walk to the first batter he faced to get two inning-ending ground balls.


Colon also coaxed a pair of groundouts to start the Sioux Falls seventh before lefthander Josh Poytress struck out Ramirez, the only lefthanded bat in the Canaries’ lineup.


After that, it was the same combination that had worked in Sioux City’s two previous starts -- setup man Cody Satterwhite, working a 1-2-3 eighth with a pair of strikeouts, before closer Chris Bodishbaugh made it three saves in as many games, working a spotless ninth frame.


Fortunately for the X’s, a controversial eighth inning call did not prove costly after Barrows appeared to have led off the inning with a home run to left field.


After a protest from Sioux Falls Manager Steve Shirley, the long fly ball that caromed high off the wall in left was ruled a triple. And, the decision prevented a run after Canaries reliever Matt Daly struck out Palmer Karr, Pounds and Barroso in order.


The season-opening four-game series is scheduled to conclude with a 1:05 p.m. matinee matchup today at the Bird Cage, although storms are prominent in the Sunday afternoon forecast.


The Explorers, who tripped the Canaries 5-3 in their season opener Thursday night at Lewis and Clark Park, return home Monday to start a six-game homestand with a three-game inter-league series against the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League.


Article provided by Sioux City Journal