KANSAS CITY – The Sioux City Explorers hung on by the skin of their teeth for a 9-8 American Association baseball win over the Kansas City T-Bones at Community America Ballpark here Wednesday.
The Explorers held off a furious Kansas City rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, becoming the first team in the American Association to reach 20 wins. The X’s (20-6) tied the 2015 squad for the quickest to 20 victories in franchise history.
Kansas City trailed 9-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth, but scored five runs and had the bases loaded with one out when Eric Karch got Tucker Pennell to ground into a game-ending double play.
Karch recorded his fourth save of the season, helping starter James Dykstra (5-0) become the league’s first five-game winner. Dykstra allowed three runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three in six innings.
Pennell led off the wild Kansas City ninth with a base hit off reliever Ryan Horstman. Keith Curcio reached on an error by second baseman Jose Sermo on what looked like a sure double play before Dylan Tice and Todd Cunningham drew walks, the second forcing in a run.
Karch replaced Horstman and promptly gave up a two-run double to Nick Torres, pulling the T-Bones within 9-6. Zach Walters drove in a run with a ground out, Cal Towey walked and Adrien Nieto doubled down the right field line, making it 9-8 with runners on second and third and one out.
The Explorers elected to walk Dexter Kjerstad intentionally to load the bases and Karch coaxed Pennell into a shortstop-to-second-to-first double play.
Sioux City erased an early 2-0 deficit with five runs in the third as the first five men reached safely. Dylan Kelly, David Kerian and Luis Durango singled to load the bases before Michael Lang rapped an RBI single and Nate Samson a two-run single, running his league-leading RBI total to 31.
After a Sermo sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, Jay Baum hit a sacrifice fly to plate Lang. As Lang crossed the plate the throw from right field got away from the catcher and Samson came home on the error, giving the X’s a 5-2 lead.
After the T-Bones scored a run in the fourth, Baum laced a two-out double for his second RBI of the game, making it 6-3. The X’s tacked on three in the eighth on four extra base hits. Sermo ended an 0-for-19 slump with a double, but was picked off second base. Baum then tripled off the left field wall and scored on a Daniel Jackson double.
Dylan Kelly hit his first home run of the season, an opposite-field two-run shot to right, giving Sioux City what looked like a comfortable 9-3 cushion.
The final game of a four-game series gets under way at 7:05 p.m. here Thursday. Former major leaguers Taylor Jordan and Scott Carroll will be the starting pitchers.