The Sioux Falls Pheasants early lead wasnt enough in a 3-2 loss to the Sioux City Explorers on Sunday night at Lewis and Clark Park.
The two I-29 rivals split a four-game series, and Sioux Falls (27-27) finished a 12-game road trip with just three victories while away from Sioux Falls Stadium.
The Pheasants may have lost more than the game when leadoff man Jonny Kaplan exited with a high ankle sprain suffered while legging out a bunt attempt in the eighth inning. It was the third injury to a regular Pheasants position player on the road trip. Mark Shoreys season ended when he broke a hand bone on July 3 in Kansas City, and shortstop Cory Morales has not played since July 6 due to a high ankle sprain.
Kaplan entered the ballgame with a .344 batting average, highest on the team and seventh best in the league.
Cristian Guerrero gave the Pheasants a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with a two-out, RBI single, and Cesar Nicolas belted a leadoff home run, his sixth of the year, in the fourth for a 2-0 advantage.
But in the bottom of the fifth with two outs and two on, Sioux City slugger Kris Sanchez sent Pete Gehles 3-1 pitch over the left-center field fence for the go-ahead home run.
The home run was the only extra-base hit Gehle (4-5) allowed in the loss. He yielded nine hits and three runs in six innings while walking two and striking out one.
Explorers starter Nick Schumacher (5-3) struck out a season-high nine batters to beat the Pheasants. He allowed just five hits in seven-plus innings and walked only one.
Chuck Lukanen and Eddie De La Cruz combined to douse a potential Pheasants rally in the eighth, and Chris Bodishbaugh struck out the side in a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the second night in a row to earn his 11th save.
Dusty Gober was perfect in relief of Gehle in the seventh and eighth innings.
Nicolas led the Pheasants offense with a 3-for-4 night.
The Pheasants open a seven-game homestand with a three-game series against first-place Fargo-Moorhead beginning at 7:05 p.m. on Monday, July 16. Fargo-Moorhead leads the Pheasants by six games in the North Division. The contest kicks off Throwback Week, celebrating 20 years of independent, professional baseball in Sioux Falls. Tickets on Monday are just $1, available through the Pheasants box office at Sioux Falls Stadium.
Courtesy: Scott S. Beatty, SF Pheasants