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Walk-off homer drops RailCats in series opener

Contact: Jared Shlensky
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Box Score

GARY, Ind — In a game that featured six lead changes, it was ultimately the Sioux City Explorers who had the final lead on the scoreboard in Friday’s series opener against Gary, defeating the RailCats, 11-10, on John Nogowski's three-run, walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Gary batted through the order on two separate occasions and had eight of their nine starters reach base at least once, five of whom finished with a multi-hit game, but  it wasn't enough in the first matchup of the year vs. Sioux City.

With Sioux City (10-4) down to their final out and trailing the RailCats, 10-6, in the bottom of the ninth, Tony Compana gave the Explorers hope with a single to center. Michael Lang followed with a single before Jayce Ray reached on an error to load the bases. Brandon Alvarez, who replaced the ejected Nate Samson, made it 10-8 with a two-run single to center. Nogowski followed with a three-run walk-off home run to left-center on the first pitch he saw from Drasen Johnson.

Gary (7-8) jumped in front for the second straight night with a run in the top of the first. Reggie Wilson drew a free pass with one out before Anthony Cheky Jr. recorded the first hit of the series with a single to right. Frank Martinez followed with an RBI single the other way, giving the RailCats a 1-0 advantage.  

Sioux City quickly responded in the home half of the first with three two-out runs. Jayce Ray recorded the first Explorers hit with a two-out single to center beforeSamson brought him home with an RBI double off the left-center wall. Nogowski made it 3-1 with a towering two-run homer to left, giving the Explorers their first lead of the evening.

The RailCats regained the lead with three runs in the second. Andy De Jesus led off the inning with a double down the left field line before Chase Harris brought De Jesus home with an RBI double off the top of the left field wall. Two batters later, Wilson ended his season-high 0-for-17 slump with an RBI single to right, evening the game at 3-3. Cheky Jr. then served an RBI single the other way to give Gary back the lead at 4-3.

The Explorers took their second lead of the night with a pair of runs in the fifth. Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Campana singled to left on the first pitch of the frame. Campana then stole second on the very next pitch before advancing to third after squirming his way between second and third in a long rundown, allowing Michael Lane to end up at second on the fielder’s choice.

Kris Goodman’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the sixth tied the game at 5-5 before Wilson gave Gary back the lead with an RBI single to right. Martinez recorded his fourth and fifth RBIs in the last two games with a two-run single to center, putting the RailCats in front by three. A Todd Eaton wild pitch brought in Cheky from third for the final run of the inning.

Martinez led off the eighth inning with a towering shot to right for the final RailCats final run of the game. The homer for Martinez was his second of the year, both of which have been hit on the road.

Ray led off the bottom of the eighth with a four-pitch walk before moving to second on a passed ball. Two batters later, Nogowski singled to center, moving Ray to third before a wild pitch from Christian Herstine brought in Ray, cutting the Gary lead to 10-6.

Johnson (2-2) allowed five unearned runs on four hits in 0.2 of an inning while P.J. Francescon (1-1) recorded the win with a scoreless top of the ninth. Wilson reached base four times and finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run while Martinez extended his hitting streak to six games with a 3-for-5 performance, including five RBIs.

Gary and Sioux City continue their three-game series on Saturday evening at 7:05 p.m. Southpaw Braulio Torres Perez (1-0, 5.40) makes his first start of the year for the RailCats in the middle game of the series while the Explorers have yet to announce their starter.

The RailCats return home on Monday, June 5 for a seven-game homestand against the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks and the Sioux City Explorers. Monday’s game vs. Fargo-Moorhead starts at 7:10 p.m. and is a MetroPCS Monday. Visit your nearest NW Indiana MetroPCS for a reserved seat ticket voucher on every MetroPCS Monday.

Jared Shlensky and Austin Anderson bring you all 100 RailCats games this season on WEFM (95.9 FM) and online at Fans can purchase tickets for RailCats home games by calling (219) 882-BALL or online at The RailCats box office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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