Lincoln, NE – In a near five-hour game full of twists and turns, the Gary SouthShore RailCats pulled out a 17-12 extra-inning win over the Lincoln Saltdogs to kick off the three-game series.
Both squads combined for 29 runs on 34 hits, 15 walks, and 11 stolen bases in a wire-to-wire thriller.
The RailCats began their day at the plate by jumping all over reigning American Association ERA champion Kyle Kinman in the first inning. Tom Walraven walked, stole second base, and moved up to third on a wild pitch before a Michael Woodworth groundout supplied the game’s first run. Jesus Marriaga singled and stole a base of his own, allowing Victor Nova to drive him in. LG Castillo walked to place runners on first and second for Sherman Graves to rip a double to the left field corner, plating one more to propel the ‘Cats to a 3-0 edge.
However, the Saltdogs soon found their groove offensively to pull ahead themselves. A run in the second inning followed by two in the third tied the game at three, and a trio in the fourth saw them go up 6-3.
Trailing by three, the RailCats rallied back to pull even right away. Daniel Lingua connected on a solo home run, his fifth of the season, bringing the ‘Cats within two. Nova and Castillo worked their way aboard through a double and walk respectively, and a Graves fly ball to the wall in right field forced a Saltdogs error to score them both, knotting the contest up at six.
Once again, though, Lincoln re-sparked their offense to re-take the lead. A wild pitch and sacrifice fly accounted for a pair of runs, pushing them to an 8-6 advantage.
In response, the ‘Cats dug deep and rallied their back into the ballgame. A hard-hit Woodworth ground ball caused another Lincoln error to allow Walraven to come home and cut the deficit to one in the top of the sixth, and immediately after a Castillo triple, Graves notched a single to equalize at 8-8 in the seventh.
Aaron Phillips delivered two scoreless innings out of the bullpen to hold the Saltdogs in check, enabling the ‘Cats to complete the comeback in the top of the eighth. Back-to-back singles positioned runners on the corners, and a slow-rolling ground ball between the pitcher’s mound and home plate led to another Lincoln error, propelling the ‘Cats in front. The next batter, Marriaga, grooved a single up the middle, tacking on another two runs, and Gary SouthShore found themselves on top 11-8.
Walraven delivered one more time in the top of the ninth to give the ‘Cats more late insurance. Nate Scantlin made his way to second base on a single and steal, and Walraven’s single recorded another run, setting them three outs away from a win with a four-run cushion.
Down to their final three outs, the Saltdogs refused to go out quietly. A four-run, two-out rally leveled the contest at 12, sending the two teams to extra innings.
Not to be deterred, the RailCats erupted for five runs in the top of the tenth. Lingua started the frame on second base as the ghost runner, and Marriaga immediately drove him in on a single to left field. Though he was forced out at second base moments later, Castillo and Chris Burgess drew walks to load the bases.
Jackson Smith then stepped into the batter’s box and delivered the biggest hit of the night. He crushed a grand slam that sailed into the Gary SouthShore bullpen, setting them up with a five-run lead heading into the bottom of the inning.
The Saltdogs threatened once more by moving their ghost runner up to third and loading the bases by way of two walks, but the Gary SouthShore infield teamed up to put the game away. Woodworth, Lingua, Burgess, and Nova combined to turn a triple play, stopping a Lincoln rally in its tracks to secure the victory.
The RailCats do not have to wait long to return to action as they head back to Haymarket Park to face the Saltdogs at 12:05 p.m. All the action will be streamed on www.aabaseball.tv, 95.9 WEFM, and the Gary SouthShore RailCats Broadcast Network through the Mixlr app.