CLEBURNE, TX – After missing four starts with a groin injury, Christian Ibarra returned to the lineup and notched three hits as the Saltdogs beat the Cleburne Railroaders 10-3 on Friday night.
Ibarra’s three-run homer in the third inning broke a streak of five straight homerless games for the most prolific long ball hitting team in the American Association. His performance propelled the Saltdogs’ (45-45) offense to 10 runs after it had scored just 10 combined runs over the last five games.
The victory sealed the series win for Lincoln. The club has won five of its last six series and set a season-high with its fourth straight road series win.
Dan Johnson knuckleballed his way to his first win with the Saltdogs. He tied his career high by lasting seven innings. The 39-year-old allowed two runs on six hits, did not issue a walk and struck out three batters. Saltdogs starting pitchers have registered quality starts in each of the last five games.
The Saltdogs opened the scoring in the first inning. Railroaders (29-61) starter Michael Gunn hit Ivan Marin with a pitch to start the game. Two batters later, Randolph Oduber doubled him home to get the first run. Curt Smith followed with a two-batter in the next at bat to score Oduber and make it 2-0.
Cleburne answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning. K.C. Huth singled and stole second base. Patrick Palmeiro hit him in with a ground rule double.
The Railroaders could not silence the ‘Dogs offense in the first three innings, though. Ivan Marin drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning and Ibarra launched his three-run homer in the third to make it 6-1. The dinger was Ibarra’s 16th of the season.
Cleburne managed another run in the bottom of the third. Huth and Levi Scott each doubled to trim the Railroaders’ deficit to four runs.
The Saltdogs added to their lead in the sixth and seventh innings. Alex Glenn drove in a run with a double in the sixth. Then, the ‘Dogs rattled off four straight hits to start the seventh. Lincoln plated three runs in the inning to grow its lead to 10-2.
Cleburne collected a run in the ninth inning off Saltdogs newcomer Trevor Lubking to complete the scoring.
The Saltdogs try for the series sweep on Saturday. First pitch is at 7:06 PM with coverage beginning at 6:35 PM on ESPN 101.5 FM 1480 AM and http://www.espn1480.com/lincoln-saltdogs-baseball/.