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PAPILLION, Neb–Memphis scored the game-deciding run on a wild pitch in the ninth, snatching a 4-3 win in the second game of the American Conference Finals over Omaha at Werner Park on Thursday night.
The win evens the series at 1-1, with the next three potential games set to be played at AutoZone Park starting on Friday night.
Pitcher Zach Petrick limited the Omaha offense to seven hits and two runs over six innings of work. His ninth quality start of the season featured four strikeouts and a walk on 78 pitches (51 for strikes).
Greg Garcia (2-for-4, 2 R, 2 K) and Rafael Ortega (2-for-4, 3B, RBI) provided the offensive spark on a night that Memphis was outhit, 10-6.
The ‘Birds set the tone early in game two. After Tommy Pham worked an eight pitch at-bat to lead off the game, Scott Moore took an inside pitch and deposited the ball over the right field wall. The infielder’s 16th home run of the season gave Memphis the 2-0 lead.
The visitors threatened in both the second and third innings, but left runners at first and second in both frames. By the end of the game, they had only left five runners on base and were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
Memphis expanded their lead in the fourth. Garcia started the inning with a single and scored all the way from first when Ortega golfed a triple into the right field corner. The hit would be the final one that Omaha’s starter John Lamb would allow, exiting the game after the frame.
The Storm Chasers busted onto the scoreboard in the home half of the fourth. Matt Fields and Brett Hayes both singled and then scored when Pedro Ciriaco doubled to center field. Both runs came off Petrick, who took the no-decision.
The Memphis offense fell silent after pushing the run across in the fourth. Former Redbird Clayton Mortensen came on in relief, striking out a season-high eight and retiring 13 straight Memphis hitters. He ended up with a longer outing than Lamb, managing five innings with one hit.
After Petrick’s outing was completed, Eric Fornataro entered and failed to hold the lead. Whit Merrifield stepped to the dish with two away in the seventh and launched a solo shot to left field. It was Merrifield’s second home run of the series and it knotted things up at 3-3.
The score remained even until the final frame. After Mortensen struck out his eighth hitter to start the inning, Garcia blooped a single into center field. The infielder took matters into his own hands from there, swiping second base safely and scooting to third on an errant throw by the catcher. Later in the at-bat, Mortensen threw a ball that found its way past the catcher for a wild pitch, allowing Garcia to score.
Memphis would hold on to the 4-3 lead, but Jorge Rondon made it interesting.
Rondon was looking to save the game for the Redbirds and was facing the bottom three in the Omaha lineup. After retiring the first hitter, the right-hander allowed a walk to Paul Janish and a double Jorge Bonafacio, placing runners at second and third. He then issued an intentional walk to Merrifield, loading the bases. Rondon dug deep and got Brian Bocock on a strikeout then retired Paulo Orlando (3-for-5, 2B) on a grounder to third to even the series at 1-1.