FARGO, N.D. - Emotions ran high at Newman Outdoor Stadium Tuesday evening as Sioux City evened up its series with Fargo-Moorhead 19-5 in American Association baseball action.
The Explorers and RedHawks cleared their benches at least twice during the heated contest that saw two potential postseason combatants battle through a nine-inning game that was close until the X's scored 12 times in the ninth inning.
The nine-inning game lasted 4 hours, 12 minutes, but was still 20 minutes shy of the league record set in a game between the Explorers and Sioux Falls in 2007.
Sioux City starting pitcher Ian McKinney was cruising along with a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning before tempers flared between the teams. The RedHawks scored twice in the fifth, the second crossing home on a wild pitch that cleared both benches.
With F-M's Keury De La Cruz at bat, McKinney threw a pitch well behind De La Cruz, allowing Maikol Gonzalez to advance from third and pull Fargo-Moorhead within 6-2. De Le Cruz was unhappy with the location of the pitch and the benches cleared for the first of two times in the frame, the second coming a few pitches later when a full count effort by McKinney came high and inside on De La Cruz.
Sioux City had taken a six-run lead in the top of the fifth inning when Jose Sermo hit his 17th home run of the season, a towering fly to right. An inning earlier the X's scored four runs, the big blow coming on a two-run double by Dexture McCall who belted a liner to center field that froze outfielder Devan Ahart, allowing the ball to go all the way to the fence. McCall came around to score when Luis Durango singled to left and seemingly safe lead.
Following the two-run fifth, McKinney departed in favor of Ryan Flores who gave up a pair of two-out walks before Gonzalez and Tim Colwell hit RBI singles to cut the Explorer lead to 6-4. Only a nifty play by shortstop Nate Samson to end the threat kept Sioux City in the lead. McKinney got credit for the pitching win, evening his season record at 2-2.
The RedHawks trailed just 7-5 entering the ninth inning but had their hopes of rallying crushed when the X's scored a dozen times to put the game away for good. The capper to the big inning for the came off the bat of Sermo who clubbed a long grand slam off F-M rookie infielder Derrick Fox. Sermo ended the evening with six RBIs.
Fargo-Moorhead, which entered the night with a 47-38 record, is a three-way battle with St. Paul and Gary Southshore for the North Division title. The RedHawks loss coupled with a St. Paul win left Fargo-Moorhead three games behind the Saints
Sioux City (64-23) will look to claim the series in a 7:02 p.m. start time Wednesday.