The Cleburne Railroaders continued their season-best stretch by taking two of three games from the visiting Chicago Dogs this week.
Cleburne opened the three-game series with a 7-4 victory Tuesday, which tied the franchise record of seven consecutive wins. The Dogs evened the series and snapped Cleburne’s winning streak by taking game 2 with a 5-2 victory Wednesday night. But the Railroaders bounced back in game 3 with a come-from-behind 11-8 victory to win their third straight series.
Entering play Friday, the Railroaders had won eight of nine games to climb back into first place in the South Division with a 24-21 record. Only three teams in the American Association as of Friday had better records than Cleburne — Fargo-Moorhead (30-16), St. Paul (29-16), and Winnipeg (26-18).
In the rubber match Thursday night, the Railroaders rallied from a pair of four-run deficits to capture an 11-8 victory in front of a season-high crowd of 2,955.
Cleburne fell into an early 4-0 hole as Chicago (21-21) got a two-out, two-run double from Victor Roache and a two-run homer from Jordan Dean to seize control early. The Dogs ultimately scored all eight of their runs with two outs.
The Railroaders cut the lead in half in the second inning as Grant Buck drove home a run with a single and then came around to score himself on a wild pitch. Tony Rosselli pushed the lead back to three with an RBI double in the top of the third for Chicago, but a pair of solo homers from John Nester and Chase Simpson pulled Cleburne to within 5-4.
Three more two-out runs came across for Chicago in the top of the sixth on three consecutive singles against Cleburne reliever Nefi Ogando (1-3). But Cleburne responded with three runs of its own as K.C. Huth beat out a run-scoring fielder’s choice and Zach Nehrir ripped a two-run double to cut the lead to 8-7.
Cleburne finally surged in front in the seventh. Chicago reliever Josh Goossen-Brown (1-3) loaded the bases with nobody out on a double, walk, and bunt single, setting the stage for Buck. On a 2-1 pitch, the rookie lined a two-run single into right-center field to give the Railroaders their first lead at 9-8. Hunter Clanin followed with an RBI single of his own, and later added a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth to produce the game’s final margin.
Cleburne reliever Tyler Wilson recorded his ninth save with a scoreless top of the ninth.
Buck finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs with a walk while Clanin went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Simpson finished 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI.
In game 2 Wednesday, the Railroaders tied a franchise record by striking out 17 times in a 5-2 loss to the Dogs.
Despite the 17 strikeouts, Cleburne outhit Chicago 9-5 but the Railroaders stranded nine runners, six of which were left in scoring position.
The Railroaders managed only two hits against Chicago starter Luke Westphal in the first six innings; meanwhile the Dogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first two innings.
Cleburne starter Charlie Gillies pitched well in a losing effort as he recorded a season-high nine strikeouts
Cleburne got on the board in the eighth inning against former Major League All-Star Carlos Zambrano. Three consecutive doubles from Huth, Daniel Robertson and Nehrir trimmed the Chicago lead to 5-2, but Rich Mascheri came out of the Dogs bullpen to squelch the threat. Kyle Halbohn worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth with two more strikeouts to record his fifth save for the Dogs.
Huth, Nester and Robertson each collected two base hits in the loss.
In the series opener Tuesday, the Railroaders had to rally from a pair of deficits en route to the 7-4 win.
Cleburne starter Jesus Sanchez improved to 4-2 with the win as he allowed only two runs over 6.1 innings with six strikeouts.
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the ‘Roaders instantly responded with an RBI single from Nick Rotola to tie it and another run on a wild pitch to take a 2-1 lead.
The Dogs reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth on an RBI single and another run that scored on a balk for a 3-2 advantage.
Simpson put the Railroaders in front to stay with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, giving Cleburne a 5-3 lead. Solo homers from Huth and Nester extended the Railroaders edge, answering a seventh-inning run for Chicago.
The Cleburne bullpen was excellent as D.J. Sharabi retired both hitters he faced in the seventh, Ogando worked a scoreless eighth, and Wilson struck out the side in the ninth to secure his eighth save.
Simpson, Neser and Clanin each recorded two base hits, with Simpson driving in three runs with Nester and Rotola each adding one RBI.
The Railroaders are scheduled to a three-game series against the Gary SouthShore RailCats at 7:06 p.m. Friday. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 7:06 p.m. Saturday with the finale set for 6:05 p.m. Sunday.
The Railroaders hit the road Monday on a travel day to Milwaukee where Cleburne will face the Milkmen, a first-year franchise, for the first time in a three-game set. Cleburne will then head over to Gary, Indiana, for a three-game series with the RailCats before returning home for another six-game homestand beginning July 16 against Lincoln.
For information on partnerships, season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Railroaders office at 817-945-8705 or visit the website at www.railroaderbaseball.com.