Ben Broussard's RBI single in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship gave Omaha a 3-2 lead over the Salt Lake Bees and Storm Chaser reliever Michael Mariot tossed a scoreless ninth to secure the win in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Werner Park in Omaha.
The Bees seemed to have Omaha right where they wanted them when Broussard came up to the plate. They had already turned four 6-4-3 double plays and were set up to do it again after intentionally walking Omaha right fielder Anthony Seratelli in the eighth inning to bring Broussard to the plate. But Broussard, a 36-year-old veteran with seven years of Major League experience, was up to the challenge.
"Man, that's the situation you want to be in, especially where I'm at in the lineup," said Broussard after the game. He was hitting cleanup. "And then having Seratelli in front of me, who walks a lot and has had a lot of success in this league - it's great when they pitch around him or walk him and want to face me and then I'm able to stick with my plan and get a mistake and hit it somewhere where they can't catch it."
Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said Broussard always shows confidence at the plate.
"He's just a professional hitter," Jirschele said. "He knows what he wants to do and what he can do by the stuff that the pitcher features out there. The last week, I've seen him have the best BPs I've seen him have all year."
A rainstorm on Tuesday night forced the game to be suspended in the second inning with the game tied 1-1. On Wednesday, Clay Mortensen took the mound in relief of Chris Dwyer for Omaha. And Barry Enright took over for Salt Lake's Matt Schoemaker.
Mortensen and Enright battled into the middle innings with Salt Lake taking a 2-1 lead when designated hitter Luis Rodriguez blasted a 3-1 offering from Mortensen over the right field wall in the fourth inning. But Mortensen didn't give up any runs after that, going five innings, striking out eight and walking two.
"I was real happy with his performance," Jirschele said. "He changes speeds and he uses both sides of the plate. He just keeps hitters off stride, off balance. I thought his command of the strike zone was better this outing than his last."
The Storm Chasers got their leadoff man on base in the third through six innings, but then hit into 6-4-3 double plays in each of those innings. Enright induced three of those double play balls and left after the sixth inning without giving up any runs.
Omaha tied the game 2-2 in the seventh inning on an RBI double by catcher Manny Pina, who was facing Jeremy Berg. Center fielder Paulo Orlando followed him with a single to center field and Jirschele waved Pina home. Scott Cousins made a good throw to get Pina on a close play at the plate.
Reliever Buddy Baumann pitched a scoreless eighth for Omaha, and he ended up picking up the win after Omaha took the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Omaha shortstop Irving Falu singled to lead off the eighth and second baseman Christian Colon put down a sacrifice bunt to move Falu to second. It was Colon's second sacrifice bunt of the game.
"I was ready to go right there," Colon said. "That's helping the team out. That's what I'm all about, especially after we had hit into four double plays. We had to change things up, to try to create something by putting a guy in scoring position to see if the pitcher feels more pressure."
Speaking of pressure, Broussard made a comment about how the playoff atmosphere differs from other minor league games.
"I love being in a playoff situation," Broussard said. "I think it's probably the closest thing to the big leagues when you're in the minor leagues as far as pressure is concerned. It's real easy to go up there and try to do too much.
"Our team's done a great job. Every night it seems like it has been somebody else. So I was glad it was my turn today and that I could help us. Hopefully we can go out and play another good game and come out with two."
After Game 2, which will be played later tonight, the rest of the series will shift to Salt Lake.
The winner of Game 1 in the PCL Championship has gone on to win the title in the last 10 seasons and in 13 of the 14 years the Championship Series has been played since 1998.