LANG HAUNTS HIS FORMER TEAM, SAINTS WIN GAME TWO OF AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FINALS 3-2, ONE WIN SHY OF TITLE
SIOUX CITY, IA (September 12, 2019) – Sometimes the story lines are there waiting to be written. Michael Lang started 2019 with the Sioux City Explorers, his seventh season with the organization. On July 28 the Explorers sent Lang to the Saints for a player to be named later. On Thursday night Lang came back to haunt his former team and put the Saints on the precipice of their first title in 15 years. His go-ahead RBI double in the top of the ninth sent the Saints to a 3-2 victory at Mercy One Field at Lewis and Clark Park. The Saints now lead the best-of-five series 2-0.
With the game tied at two in the ninth the Explorers had All-Star reliever Tyler Fallwell on the mound in his third inning of relief. He hit Chris Baker to lead off the inning. Blake Schmit moved him over to a second with a bunt. After Dan Motl struck out, that brought up Lang. He roped a hanging slider into the left field corner scoring Baker giving the Saints a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth Tanner Kiest came on to close the game out. He walked the leadoff man Drew Stankiewicz. Kiest, however, got Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star Nate Samson to ground into a double play. The man who took Lang’s roster spot, Jeremy Hazelbaker, who was 0-4 on the night with four strikeouts, walked. Kiest would strikeout Jose Sermo to end the game and earn his third save of the playoffs.
The Saints fell behind 2-0 as Stankiewicz hit a solo homer in the first, his first of the playoffs, and a solo homer by Sermo in the second, his first of the playoffs.
Saints starter Eddie Medina settled down after that including a huge moment in the fourth. With one out Dexture McCall singled to right. Dylan Kelly followed with an RBI single to right putting runners at first at second. A walk to Sebastian Zawada loaded the bases. Medina fanned Adam Sasser and Kyle Wren to end the inning.
That momentum carried over in the top of the fifth. Pete Tago, who was masterful in his first four innings, striking out six in that time, walked Chesny Young to leadoff the inning. He moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Chris Baker to make it 2-1. A groundout to second by Schmit sent Baker to second. Motl walked and that brought up Lang. He ripped an RBI double down the first base line, scoring Baker to tie the game at two. Lang finished the night 2-5 with two doubles and two RBI. The Saints had the opportunity to take the lead, but Brady Shoemaker struck out and John Silviano grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Saints defense came up huge in the seventh as the Explorers loaded the bases on three walks. Medina started the inning by walking Wren and then was removed for Ken Frosch. A wild pitch moved Wren to second, but Frosch struck out Stankiewicz for the first out. After an intentional walk to Samson, Frosch fanned Hazelbaker. Karch Kowalczyk came out of the bullpen and, after a double steal, walked Sermo intentionally. That brought up McCall who hit a grounder to the left of second baseman Josh Allen. He raced to his left and threw across his body to a moving target in Kowalczyk and made a perfect throw to get McCall to end the inning.
In the eighth the Explorers got three hits, but didn’t score. Dylan Kelly led off the inning against Kowalczyk with a single to left. Zawada then grounded into a double play, but Sasser followed with a single to center. A wild pitch moved Sasser to second and Wren lined a single to right. Sasser was held at third and as the throw went home, Wren tried to take second, but catcher Jeremy Martinez threw him out to end the inning.
This is the first time in franchise history the Saints have won the first two games of the Finals on the road. The only other time they won the first two games in the playoffs on the road was the Divisional Series in 2007 against the Lincoln Saltdogs, a series they would go on to sweep.
The teams are off on Friday and Game 3 of the American Association Finals on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. The Saints send RHP Ryan Zimmerman (7-3, 4.16, 0-0, 0.00) against Explorers RHP Taylor Jordan (6-10, 4.49, 0-0, 1.42).