It is rare that the sequel is better than the original but if one was to compare Lincoln’s back-to-back 2-1 wins at Sioux Falls Part 2 would get the nod. Fortunately both games had happy endings for the Saltdogs but for shear drama Friday’s finish will go down as one of the most memorable of the season and perhaps in team history.
For the second-straight night the Saltdogs and Canaries found themselves in a well-played pitchers duel between both teams’ respective aces in Jarrett Gardner and Pat Mahomes. As a result, neither offense was productive but Lincoln did make get on the board early with a run in the top of the first inning. With two outs, Bryan Warner doubled to right center then scored on a single to center by Brett Cooley to give the Dogs a 1-0 lead that held up until the fifth.
In the fifth inning, Sioux Falls scored its lone run of the game in a sequence that bordered on the bizarre. It started when Orlando Miller led off the inning by striking out on a checked swing at a wild pitch that allowed him to reach first base. However, he wasn’t there long. Shortly after getting to the base, Miller was ejected for comments made to first base umpire Thomas Newsome, who also tossed Canaries’ manager was Steve Shirley shortly thereafter. Little-used backup catcher Jake Smith entered as Miller’s replacement and, after a sacrifice bunt, he scored on a single to left by Scott Lydy. The Canaries’ hitting coach, Lydy had not played professionally since 2001 but he was pressed into duty because of injuries to Abner Arroyo and Cameron Coughlin.
The game wasn’t tied for long. In the top of the sixth inning, Tony Garcia hit a solo homerun over the wall in left field off Mahomes that put Lincoln up, 2-1. The Dogs later loaded the bases in the inning but failed to score again leaving it to Gardner and the bullpen to hold on to the lead. Which they did, but it wasn’t easy.
Leading by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth, Lincoln turned to closer Matt Varner, who walked the leadoff batter, gave up a single, and then hit the third man he faced to load the bases with no outs. Damon Lessler then hit a ground ball to first baseman Brett Cooley, who threw home to force out the lead runner and keep the Canaries off the board. His throw bounced to new catcher Joe Dempsey, who blocked the throw, secured the ball and kept his foot on the plate for the out. With one out, the bases remained loaded for Lydy, who grounded sharply to Garcia at short triggering game-ending double play that barely beat the runner at first.
Despite the drama, Varner picked up his 14th save, while Garner moved his record to 7-2 with the win. Mark Roberts set the Canaries down in order in the eighth to assist in the victory. Offensively, Warner had three hits.
For the Canaries, Mahomes pitched a complete game but suffered his second loss of the season, both of which have been to Lincoln.