The longest road trip of the Explorers season is over.
When they return to Lewis and Clark Park on Friday night, they will be riding a hot streak, winning three of their last four games.
While a three-game win streak was snapped Thursday afternoon in Fargo when the RedHawks beat the X’s 6-5, they are still carrying some momentum.
Sioux City made three straight late inning rallies to pick up wins so far this week, and a fourth on Thursday came up a run short.
“They’re going to keep fighting and I think that’s been my mantra since I took over,” Montgomery said following Thursday’s game. “We have teams that are going to come in here and they’re going to fight and they’re going to compete. A 6-5 road trip where you’re playing the team you’re chasing, you win the series, 3-2. You go up to Milwaukee. They’re a second place team, find a way to get a game in a very tough place … and then to come to who’s leading the division right now, and you take the series, so we have to build on that momentum. ”
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The Explorers trailed 6-1 heading into the eighth inning Thursday afternoon before Sebastian Zawada hit a three-run home run to get Sioux City within two. In the top of the ninth, Danny Amaral walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third before going home on a wild pitch with one out. The comeback fell short as the Explorers were unable to scratch another run across.
Wednesday night, the Explorers rallied for four runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to overcome an 8-1 deficit and win 9-8. It was their third straight win in come-from-behind fashion.
Trey Martin tallied three hits and five RBI, including a three-run double in the ninth to tie the game at eight. The bats coming alive is taking pressure off some of the pitching staff after a slow start to the season offensively.
“Instead of trying to be so perfect and then you pitch yourself into a crooked inning, limit the damage to one when you have that leadoff double, limited to one because you know your offense is going to respond,” Montgomery said. “If offense can stay like this, it’s going to take a lot of pressure off our pitchers. Our pitchers are going to be out there knowing that the offense is going to be there for him.”
Sunday afternoon, Sioux City scored two runs in the seventh, one in the eighth and two in the ninth to defeat Milwaukee in Milwaukee 7-6. Tuesday in Fargo, the Explorers scored four runs in the top of the ninth to take down the RedHawks 8-6. The Explorers capped off the win streak with the memorable comeback Wednesday.
Overall, the Explorers recorded a winning record on the road trip, winning six of the 11 games played over the last week and a half.
“I have to credit the players and my staff for managing, not only playing time, but managing everything, whether it’s batting practice, whether it’s the rest, the recovery, everything,’ Montgomery said. “I thought we did and excellent job as a group really doing that. And hats off to the guys who went out there and really competed their butts off to get this 6-5 record and it was very important. Very, very important. We put ourselves right back in the thick of things,”
The X’s are still sitting 10 games below .500 entering play Friday, but are now three-and-a-half games behind Lincoln for fourth in the division after the Explorers game but prior to any other action Thursday. With 36 games to play, they are looking to make one last push for the playoffs.
The next two weeks will be vital for the Explorers. After its three games home stand with the Dogs, Sioux City hits the road for three games in Fargo-Moorhead and three games in Chicago before returning home to face the Kansas City Monarchs for the final time this season. All three teams are within a game of first place of their respective divisions.
“I think you just take it one game at a time,” Montgomery said. “I know it’s a cliche, but you know you just have to find ways to get a couple of wins. You know, I don’t think the goals change because you’re playing first place teams. We just played a first place team and were able to win the series. The biggest thing is you can’t go into a series and get swept. You can’t do it because you’re going to lose ground. And we just have to find ways to keep around, we have seven games left with Lincoln.”
The Explorers and Dogs are set for a 7:05 pm first pitch at Mercy Field at Lewis and Clark Park Friday night.