LINCOLN | LeVon Washington went from hitless to becoming a hero in a hurry.
Hitless in six plate appearances in the second game of the series against the Central Division-leading Lincoln Saltdogs, Washington hit a two-run opposite field home run in the top of the 12th inning as the Sioux City Explorers posted a 6-4 victory Friday night in American Association action at Haymarket Park.
Washington, who had walked twice, hit his team-leading eighth home run of the season off Nigel Nootbaar (0-1), the Saltdogs’ sixth relief pitcher of the contest. It was the third home run of the game for last-place Sioux City (39-39), which has hit five round-trippers in the series.
Manager Steve Montgomery’s squad, which is 5-0 against Lincoln this season, rallied from a 2-0 deficit when Tyler Ogle hit a solo home run in the second inning. Eudor Garcia’s second homer of the series and third of the season gave the Explorers a 3-2 third-inning lead.
Lincoln (47-28) had taken advantage of two Sioux City first-inning errors to take the two-run lead off 21-year old starting pitcher Justin Vernia, who was making only his second start of the season. Vernia had retired seven consecutive Saltdogs before yielding a fifth-inning leadoff single to Cesar Valera, which set up a two-run home run from former Explorer Tommy Mendonca that produced a 4-3 lead.
Vernia had fanned eight in his 6 1/3-inning performance, some which didn’t appeal to Lincoln Manager Bobby Brown, who was ejected for arguing strikes in the fourth inning. Brown's team, owners of the American Association's best record, whiffed 14 times in a contest where reliever Brad Orosey fanned four in 2 2/3 innings while eventual winning pitcher Keith Picht (2-2) struck out two.
Sioux City center fielder Tony Campana was tossed out shortly after he was picked off first base in the ninth inning, a call which also drew the ire of Montgomery, who was also thrown out.
Second in the American Association with 32 stolen bases, Campana would have made a difference had he not been picked off. The Explorers’ leadoff batter had fouled off four pitches before walking with one out.
There was a one-ball, one-strike count on Joe Bennie when Lincoln bullpen ace Michael Wagner executed the pickoff move. Bennie hit a 1-2 pitch that went off the glove of third baseman Mendonca and trickled down the left field line, sending Bennie to second base. Bennie scored on Jayce Ray’s single to tie the game.
Garcia homered and doubled for Explorers. Ray singled twice while P.J. Francescon pitched a perfect 12th inning while recording his 16th save of the season.