OMAHA, Neb. - After tying the game in the top of the ninth, the Round Rock Express (73-69) finished off the comeback with a solo home run in the top of the 11th inning to secure a 5-4 victory over the Omaha Storm Chasers (68-74) Saturday night at Werner Park.
Center fielder Engel Beltre was in the midst of all the late-inning action, scoring the tying run in the top of the ninth before delivering the final blow in the 11th.
The Storm Chasers put the Express in an early hole after hanging three runs on E-Train starter Jake Brigham in the bottom of the second. In the top half of the frame, Round Rock loaded the bases, but was unable to capitalize before Omaha broke the scoreless draw. After a pair of walks, the Storm Chasers sacrificed the runners into scoring position as center fielder Paulo Orlando knocked the first run in with a sacrifice fly. Omaha then used a RBI single and a RBI ground out to put the Express behind 3-0.
Round Rock started to fight back in the third, cutting into the Omaha lead with a RBI double off the bat of designated hitter Mike Bianucci to make the score 3-1.
Brigham settled in and strung together three consecutive scoreless innings as the E-Train again chipped away at the Storm Chasers' lead in the sixth. With two outs and runners on first and second, catcher Eli Whiteside delivered a RBI single to pull Round Rock within one at 3-2.
Omaha got the run back in the bottom half of the sixth when first baseman Carlos Pena led off with a triple before a one-out single off the bat of catcher Manny Pina dropped the E-Train behind two runs.
Once again the Express continued to battle as Bianucci launched a two-out solo home run in the top of the seventh, trimming the Storm Chaser lead back down to one.
With the game on a see-saw, Round Rock turned to the bullpen in southpaw Nate Robertson to start the eighth, ending Brigham's outing after seven innings. Brigham scattered four runs on nine hits over his 7.0 frames, keeping the E-Train within striking distance throughout the night.
Following Robertson's scoreless eighth, Beltre set the table in the ninth by singling to start the inning and swiping second to put himself in scoring position with no outs. After a strikeout, a single put runners on first and third before Bianucci came up clutch yet again with a RBI single to knot the game at four apiece.
Locked in a 4-4 draw, a scoreless bottom of the ninth by side-winder Ben Rowen sent the game into extra innings for the second time on the road trip.
After neither team was able to score in the 10th, Beltre began the 11th with some fireworks, belting his seventh home run of the season to give Round Rock a late one-run lead.
Rowen (3-1) continued to dazzle, finishing off the final 3.0 innings, allowing just one hit to earn the win. Omaha reliever Brian Sanches (10-3) was tagged with the loss after giving up the solo blast to Beltre in the 11th.
The Express continues the four-game set at Omaha Sunday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Scott Richmond (6-6, 5.65 ERA) will be handed the ball for Round Rock, while the Storm Chasers will turn to southpaw Chris Dwyer (9-11, 3.63 ERA). For more information on the Express, visit www.RoundRockExpress.com or call (512) 255-2255. Keep up with the Express on Facebook and Twitter!