Omaha Storm Chasers pinch-runner Lance Zawadzki raced home from second base on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Chasers to an improbable 6-5 victory over the Tucson Padres Tuesday night. The victory was the club’s second in a row and first late-inning, comeback victory at brand-new Werner Park.
Like many of the runs to come across the plate on this night, wildness did in losing pitcher Evan Scribner (0-2) in the final frame. Clint Robinson led off with a walk, and was removed for the fleet-of-foot Zawadzki. Lorenzo Cain then fought off a tough pitch to lay down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, followed by an intentional walk to Irving Falu to set up the double play possibility. Manager Mike Jirschele, one game removed from his 1,000th-career win, called on pinch-hitter Kila Ka’aihue, who worked the count full. On the game’s final pitch with the runners on the move, Ka’aihue watched ball four kick away from catcher Guillermo Quiroz, who had no chance to retrieve it and throw back to the plate in time to get Zawadzki.
The game looked like it would slip out of control early, as Storm Chasers starting pitcher Mike Montgomery couldn’t find the strike zone during much of his 3.2-inning stint. He allowed five runs on three hits, hit two batters and walked four – including one with the bases loaded – to put the Storm Chasers in an early hole. He threw 48 of his 89 pitches for strikes. Blake Johnson then came on in relief, and walked the first man he faced – again with the bases loaded – and just like that it was 5-1 Tucson.
That’s when the Storm Chasers beleaguered and depleted bullpen took over. Johnson, Jesse Chavez and winning pitcher Blaine Hardy (2-2) tossed 7.1 innings of scoreless relief, keeping the Storm Chasers in the game. Each had given up at least two runs in each of their previous two outings heading into Tuesday’s contest.
Omaha third baseman Mike Moustakas thrilled the partisan crowd on Mike Moustakas replica jersey T-shirt night, collecting two hits including a game-tying, two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning to knot the score at 5-5. He almost won it in the 10th with a runner on third and two out, but his opposite-field smash was hauled in by leftfielder Cedric Hunter just before he crashed into the padded wall.
The comeback win was the Storm Chasers’ first home win at Werner Park when trailing after seven innings, as they improved to 1-5 in that category. Meanwhile, the T-Pads suffered their second-straight and incredible 14th-overall one-run loss. The victory also gave the Chasers a five-game lead in their division over the Iowa Cubs, who lost their third in a row.
Omaha and Tucson will face off in game three of their four-game series Wednesday, with an early 11:05 a.m. scheduled start time. Young flamethrower Jeremy Jeffress (0-0, 0.00) will face veteran righthander Jon Leicester (2-0, 3.73).