SIOUX CITY, Iowa — In an exhilarating, tight-rope walking finish, the Saltdogs (46-38) were able to barely hold off the Sioux City Explorers (40-47) 8-7 in front of 1,277 fans at Lewis and Clark Park Saturday night.
Brock Kjeldgaard hit a ball high up the left field wall that would have tied the game with two out in the bottom of the ninth, but went as a double, and Lincoln closed out the victory on a Peter Barrows pop out to center one batter later.
Luis Nunez belted a two-run homer to provide the Saltdogs with crucial insurance runs in the top of the ninth, extending Lincoln’s lead to 8-5.
The Explorers capitalized on a lead-off walk to plate two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but Marshall Schuler was able to somehow sew up his league record-extending 32nd save of the year.
Joe Bisenius (4-2), in his return to Lincoln after a six-week stint in the Mexican League, was absolutely dominant: seven innings of one-run ball with five hits, 11 strikeouts and one walk.
In three starts against Sioux City over the last two years, Bisenius has fanned 10-plus against the team for which he served as a bat boy during his childhood.
Trailing 6-1, Sioux City scored four two-out runs off Conor Spink in the bottom of the eighth.
The Saltdogs scored five runs in the first inning with a pair of two-out home runs from Brian Joynt and Omar Luna.
Joynt homered for the second time of the night in the eighth, as Lincoln matched their season-high with four long balls in the game.
Lars Liguori (1-3) pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on eight hits to suffer the loss.
The clubs play the series finale Sunday night at 6:05 p.m. with RHP Zachary Varce (5-7, 4.01) taking on RHP Patrick Johnson (7-5, 4.09). Radio coverage begins at 6:35 p.m. on KFOR 1240.