ROUND ROCK, Texas – The Round Rock Express were mired in somewhat of an early-season lull. After being held to just one run over the last 25 innings of play, 1B Patrick Kivlehan took matters into his own hands, blasting the first pitch of his seventh-inning at-bat into the left field berm for a grand slam.
His first homer of the year, and the first long ball hit at Dell Diamond this season, broke a 1-1 tie and ultimately helped fuel the Express (7-5) past the Omaha Storm Chasers (9-5) by a final score of 5-1.
In his first appearance with the team, RHP Andrew Faulkner (1-0, 9.00) picked up the win after allowing a run on two hits and two walks in one inning of relief. Storm Chasers’ LHP Brian Flynn (0-1, 7.00) took the loss after allowing four runs on just three hits and three walks in two innings of work.
Express starter LHP Cesar Ramos (1-1, 3.18) was magnificent in four innings on the bump tonight. The lefty allowed just two baserunners during the outing, a single to CF Brett Eibner in the second at-bat of the game and a walk to 1B Jose Martinez in the second inning. Neither runner advanced, thanks in part to C Patrick Cantwell gunning down Eibner as he attempted to steal second base. Ramos’ threw 41 total pitches, with 27 of those landing in the strike zone.
After cruising through the first two innings, Omaha starter LHP Jonathan Dziedzic ran into some trouble in the third. 2B Doug Bernier and CF Ryan Strausborger each drew one-out walks beforeSS Jurickson Profar singled to load the bases for LF Justin Ruggiano. The Austinite would deliver, launching a pitch high into center field that was just deep enough to allow all three runners to tag and advance 90 feet on the sacrifice. Bernier raced home to put the Express up 1-0 and snap a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless innings for the E-Train. 3B Joey Gallo struck out in the next at-bat to end the frame.
Express LHP Michael Roth relieved Ramos in the fifth inning, pitching two scoreless innings. The lefty was a walk away from perfection as he retired every other batter he faced, including three on strikeouts.
Omaha was able to tie the game at one in the seventh as Martinez drew a one-out walk before a single off the bat of DH Balbino Fuenmayor allowed him to advance to third. A single in the next at-bat from RF Jorge Bonifacio scored Martinez, then LF Travis Snider walked to load the bases. Faulkner was then able to escape the jam by setting off a highlight-reel-worthy double play. C Tony Cruz lined a 3-2 pitch right back to Faulkner, who made an athletic grab before tossing the ball to C Michael McKenry for the force out at home. The newly acquired catcher then rocketed the ball to Kivlehan at first to complete the double play.
Fueled by the energy generated off the inning-ending double play, Kivlehan squared up on a pitch from RHP Mark Peterson in the next inning, sending the helpless baseball hurling into the left field berm as the first baseman trotted around the bases.
The inning began with single from CF Ryan Strausborger prior to Ruggiano drawing a one-out walk. After a Gallo strikeout, McKenry would get a free pass that loaded the bases. After a brief visit to the mound, Kivlehan drove home the eventual game-winning runs with one swing of the bat. The grand slam proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Storm Chasers as the Express prevailed 5-1.
With the win, Round Rock maintained their one-game lead in the Pacific Coast League’s American Southern Division. The Express have now been alone in first place in the division for a full calendar year as April 20, 2015 was the last time the E-Train found themselves in second place.
The two teams resume play tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. with Express RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-2, 8.00) set to take the mound against Storm Chasers RHP Brooks Pounders (2-0, 1.46). Tomorrow is the first Original Thirsty Thursday of the season at Dell Diamond. presented by Firetrol Protection Systems. Fans can enjoy discounted beer specials as well as $1 sodas.
Single game tickets are available along with season ticket packages and group discounts. For more information on the Express, visit www.RoundRockExpress.com or call (512) 255-2255. Keep up with the Express on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!