Juan Diaz hit the game-winning two-run home run to finish off a five-run eighth inning rally that vaulted New Orleans past Omaha, 8-7, Saturday night in the second of four meetings at Zephyr Field. The Storm Chasers dipped to 55-51 and missed a chance to gain ground on the Iowa Cubs, who lost the first game of their doubleheader against Memphis, and remain a game and a half behind the American Conference North Division leaders, pending the outcome of the nightcap.
Grant Dayton worked a perfect seventh inning in relief for the Zephyrs and was replaced by Arquimedes Caminero, who entered a 3-3 contest. Pedro Ciriaco greeted him with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run when Christian Colon followed with a two-base hit. One out later, Carlos Peguero and Justin Maxwell singled in succession to push Colon across to make it a two-run spread. The runners advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single by Paulo Orlando that pushed the Omaha lead to a seemingly comfortable 7-3 and spelled the end of the line for Caminero, who gave up hits to five of the seven batters he faced. Josh Rodriguez sparked the NOLA comeback with a two-run double and then crossed the plate on a fielding error by Colon with two outs that trimmed the deficit to one. The misplay kept the inning alive and allowed Diaz the opportunity to come to the plate and launch his decisive shot on the 10th pitch of the at-bat from Louis Coleman, who absorbed the loss despite allowing only two earned runs.
Francisco Pena slugged a two-run homer, his 21st of the season, and 10th in his last 22 games, to get the scoring started and Brian Bocock added a run-scoring hit later in the second inning to complete a three-run surge before NOLA crept within 3-2 on scoring fly balls by Diaz and Justin Bour.
Buddy Baumann tossed four innings in his fourth start of the season for the Chasers and was charged with one earned run on two hits. The left-hander did not issue a walk or record a strikeout and was followed to the hill by Chris Dwyer, who retired the side in order in the fifth but gave up the game-tying homer to Jake Marisnick in the sixth and managed to keep the game deadlocked by getting a ground to end the frame with the bases loaded. The southpaw set down the first two batters in the seventh and was lifted after hitting Diaz and replaced by Coleman, who struck out former Omaha infielder Ed Lucas with two runners on board to end the inning.
Z’s starter Elih Villanueva overcame that rough beginning and wound up retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced to finish off his six innings of work during which he gave up five hits, walked one and struck out five.