If you haven't heard the tale, there's a great story on MiLB.com, detailing the history of this one, a tongue-in-cheek version of the Cubs' Billy Goat Curse, which Visalia have adopted for their pennant run, In brief, when future AL Rookie of the Year Joe Charboneau played for them during their last title in 1978, he had a pet alligator, According to Donny Baarns, the reptile's "spirit is angry and still hovering around the ballpark, and we needed to do something about it. We needed to make him happier than he has been." So they have embraced the gator for their playoff run, which has seen them reach the final series, which opened tonight in Visalia.
But before we get to that, let's catch up on one result from Wednesday:
Despite being outhit 8-4 by the Storm Chasers, the Aces managed to prevail in the second game, leveling their PCL Championship Series in front of 5,590 at Aces Ballpark. Reno did all their damage with some two-out magic in a four-run second, after the bases had been walked loaded. First, CF Ronnie Freeman drove in two with a single. then SS Nick Ahmed also pushed two across with a double off the left-field wall. That was it for their tallies. 3B Andy Marte and LF Garrett Weber each had a double, while Omaha seemed particularly concerned with 1B Mike Jacobs, who was walked every time he was up, to end with the unusual line of 0-for-0 with four BB.
Fortunately, Reno starter Bradin Hagens was more than up to the task, holding the Storm Chasers to one run over six innings. He scattered five hits and no walks, striking out four. After he left, and a perfect inning by Jess Todd, Omaha threatened in the eighth, scoring once and with runners on the corners and still nobody out. But Kevin Munson was able to wiggle out of the jam, with the help of an interference call on an Omaha runner, which led to the ejection of their manager Brian Poldberg. Jake Barrett then retired the side in order for the save, Game 3 is on Friday night in Omaha, with Andrew Chafin starting for the Aces.
The visitors struck first, back-to-back doubles with two outs in the first inning giving the Jethawks the lead. However, Visalia's Blayne Weller settled down, retiring 10 of the next 11 batters up, and the Rawhide were able to tie things up in the second. LF Alex Alex Glenn started the inning off by getting hit, went to third on a double from 3B George Roberts, and tied things up on Breland Almadova's sac. fly. Roberts then gave the home side the lead, on his solo homer with one out in the fourth, his second of the post-season. Lancaster TOOTBLAN'd their way out of a two on, one out situation in the fifth, Almadova nailing a runner tried to tag up and go to third.
Lancaster tied things up in the sixth, chasing Weller after 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and no walks, with five strikeouts. Keith Hessler came in and stranded two inherited runners, then Will Locante, Joey Krehbiel and Enrique Burgos kept things level through the ninth. Almadova led things off in the bottom with a double, and one out later, after an intentional walk set up the double-play, he motored all the way round from there on a ground-ball to second-base, to score a walkoff win in dramatic fashion. Roberts finished a triple short of the cycle, and SS Ryan Gebhardt had two hits and a walk, as Visalia prevailed despite going 0-for-7 with RISP and striking out 14 times.
Game 2 in the series is tomorrow night, again at Visalia.