Mike Jirschele stood on a folding chair in the clubhouse, surrounded by the smiling faces of his Storm Chasers players. He gave his remarks, made a toast and was ceremoniously doused in a shower of champagne and beer. Division champs, at long last.
The Storm Chasers blasted the Round Rock Express 12-2 Wednesday night at Werner Park, then waited out a nail-biting 3-2 victory by Albuquerque over Memphis that ultimately gave the Omaha franchise its first postseason berth since 1999. The jubilant clubhouse reaction ranged from Sean O’Sullivan’s Michael Jackson dance exhibition to the playful antics of fan-favorite Irving Falu to the knowing smile of Jeff Suppan, a veteran of clubhouse celebrations on the grandest stage.
Nearly four hours earlier, the short-handed Chasers found themselves in a 2-0 hole to the Express just three batters into the game. Without Clint Robinson or Kila Ka’aihue in the lineup and with PCL Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza on the ropes, the chances of a clinch on this night looked bleak.
But one by one, role players from top to bottom collected base hit after base hit. When it was all said and done, the Chasers had amassed 18 hits, more than they had collected in any previous game at Werner Park this season. Lineups featuring Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella could not match the output of a lineup starring Joaquin Arias, Kurt Mertins and Yamaico Navarro.
Rightfielder Lorenzo Cain went 5-for-5 on the night for the Chasers, contributing five of the team’s 14 singles. Mertins went 3-for-5 with a run-scoring triple, Falu singled, tripled and drove in three and Jarrod Dyson went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI of his own.
Mendoza (12-5) settled down after allowing doubles to the first three batters of the game, surrendering just one more hit over six innings of work. He finished the game with an ERA of 2.19, still more than a run better than his nearest competitor in the PCL. Eric Hurley (8-3) took the loss for the Express, allowing 10 runs in five innings pitched.
The Chasers and Express will finish up their four-game series on Thursday at Werner Park on Fan Appreciation Night. First pitch from Werner Park is set for 7:05.
Meanwhile, tickets for the Omaha vs. Round Rock American Conference Championship Series went on sale immediately. The first game of the post-season at Werner Park is scheduled for Friday, September 9 at 7:05 p.m., with “if necessary” games set for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2:05 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Werner Park ticket office, by phone at (402) 738-5100 or online at www.omahastormchasers.com. Ticket office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.