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Chasers On A Roll, Take Game Two

Offense Comes Alive in Game 2 Victory
Chasers collect 18 hits in 15-4 romp; need one win for first PCL title

Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers

OMAHA, Neb. — The Omaha Storm Chasers had a memorable inaugural season at Werner Park, ushering in a new era of Kansas City Royals prospects, winning the franchise’s first division crown since 1999 and hitting a series-ending walk-off home run to advance past the conference championship round. The home slate ended on a high note Wednesday night, as the Chasers crushed the River Cats 15-4 in Game 2 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, moving to within one win of a league title.

Just as they did during the division-clinching game against Round Rock on August 31, the Storm Chasers fell behind early before cruising to victory. Sacramento jumped out to 3-0, first-inning lead off eventual winning pitcher Vin Mazzaro, capping the inning with a two-run home run to right off the bat of Adrian Cardenas. Mazzaro (2-0) would escape further damage, working five total innings while allowing three runs on six hits. He walked four and struck out two, throwing 91 pitches.

Omaha got back in the game with a run in the first and another in the second before crossing the plate five times with two out in the third. River Cats starter Tyson Ross (0-2) took the brunt of the offensive assault, finishing his evening after 2.2 innings, allowing seven runs – four earned – on nine hits, walking one while striking out three.

With runners on first and second and two down in the third, Irving Falu hit a slow bouncer toward short that looked like it would end the inning. However, the ball took a funny hop and skipped off the glove of shortstop Tyler Ladendorf, loading the bases. Manny Pina then dropped a two run single into shallow left-field, giving the Chasers a 4-3 lead in the game. A fielding error and two singles followed, and by the time the inning was over the Storm Chasers held a 7-3 advantage.

After Sacramento inched closer with a run in the top of the sixth, Omaha put its collective foot on the gas and didn’t let up. The Chasers scored twice in the sixth, three times in the seventh and three more times in the eighth, piling up 18 hits in the contest. Jarrod Dyson finished 4-for-6 with a homer, four RBI, three runs, a double and a stolen base in the winning effort, tripling his total playoff output of two hits entering the night.

David Lough and Clint Robinson also had three-hit games, each tallying a double and two runs batted in. The Chasers had five doubles on the night from five different players and had six players with multi-hit games.

Kevin Pucetas, Brandon Sisk, Zach Miner and Federico Castaneda combined for four innings of relief, allowing a run on three hits and two walks, striking out three batters. With a travel day coming up Thursday, manager Mike Jirschele should have a fully-rested bullpen for any remaining series games.

The Chasers are now 5-1 in the playoffs, needing just one win on the road in Sacramento to claim the first Pacific Coast League Championship in franchise history and first league title since 1990. In the potentially-clinching Game 3, 22-year-old California native and left-hander Mike Montgomery (5-11, 5.32 ERA regular season) will take the mound in his home state for the first time in his career. On the mound for the River Cats will be right-hander Travis Banwart (3-3, 7.38), a pitcher the Storm Chasers have not seen this season.

Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. central from Raley Field in Sacramento. The game can be heard on 1620 The Zone and the Chasers will also host a watch party at Brewsky’s on 156th & Q. Should Omaha win the PCL Championship, the Chasers would battle the International League champion in a one-game playoff on Tuesday in Albuquerque, N.M. First pitch of that contest would be 7:05 p.m., with the game broadcast nationally on VERSUS.

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Chasers Take Game 1 of Championship Series

Chasers Take Game 1 of Championship Series
Omaha pitching holds River Cats attack to three hits in series opener

Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers

OMAHA, Neb. — Storm Chasers left-fielder David Lough scampered around third and crossed the plate uncontested, scoring the most improbable of go-ahead runs in the Chasers’ 3-2 victory over Sacramento Tuesday night. The win gave Omaha a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five Pacific Coast League Championship Series, the second-straight series in which they have grabbed a Game 1 victory.

The decisive bottom of the seventh inning began innocently enough, as Kurt Mertins and Jarrod Dyson were retired to start the frame with the Chasers and River Cats tied 2-2. Lough then lashed a hard grounder toward the right-field corner, but as he charged toward second he tumbled and fell to the ground, finding himself on his hands and knees on the infield dirt. Somehow he managed to return safely to first ahead of the throw, keeping the inning alive.

Lorenzo Cain then stepped into the box, already 2-for-3 on the day to raise his batting average to .500 (11-for-22) for the postseason. Cain took a big cut at the first offering from Vinnie Chulk (0-1), popping it high in the air toward shallow right field. Grant Green raced in from his position in deep right-center while second baseman Wes Timmons turned and ran toward the line, but neither player found himself in position and the ball kicked off Timmons’ glove and rolled away. Lough sprinted home all the way from first on the Cain single, giving Omaha the lead for good.

By scoring in the seventh, Omaha starter Luis Mendoza (2-0) was given an opportunity to win for the second time in the playoffs and the 14th time this season. He closed the year with victories in his final four starts and has run that streak to six-straight counting the postseason. Mendoza is 14-5 with a 2.10 ERA overall this year, including 13-2 with a 1.33 ERA in 128.2 innings since May 26.

Mendoza got some help not only from Cain’s blooper but from Kelvin Herrera, who earned the save with two dominant innings. Following up on his excellent performance in Game 1 vs. Round Rock, Herrera fired two perfect innings, striking out two. In his two postseason outings totaling four innings, Herrera has retired all 12 batters he has faced – striking out six – throwing 43 pitches, 34 for strikes.

The Chasers got Mendoza an early lead, thanks to a nice piece of two-out hitting by shortstop Irving Falu. With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the first, Falu chopped an offering from Sacramento right-hander Graham Godfrey over the mound for an infield hit, scoring Jarrod Dyson to give Omaha an early 1-0 advantage.

The lead would hold up until two were down in the fourth, when Josh Donaldson drilled an opposite-field home run to knot the game at 1-1. The hit was the first of the game for Sacramento, one of just three they would wind up with on the night. The River Cats added to their lead in the top of the sixth inning, when a Carter RBI double brought home Jermaine Mitchell from first base to make it a 2-1 advantage for the visitors.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Chasers rallied to tie the score. Manny Pina looped a two-out single down the right-field line to get aboard safely, and last-minute starter Lance Zawadzki brought him in with an RBI double off the wall in right to tie the game and put the Chasers in a position to win. The double was Zawadzki’s first hit since the sixth inning of the Chasers’ 11-10 win at New Orleans on August 28, snapping a personal 0-for-24 skid at the plate.

With the victory, the Chasers are now 4-1 in the playoffs, with just one more game remaining at Werner Park during the magical 2011 season. Right-hander Vin Mazzaro (8-2, 4.22 including postseason) will get the ball to face his former team, while Tyson Ross (3-3, 7.38 including postseason) will pitch for the River Cats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with gates at 5:45. Tickets are available at the Werner Park ticket office, by phone at (402) 738-5100 and online at www.omahastormchasers.com.

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