The Omaha Storm Chasers can thank the Oklahoma City RedHawks for even being in the playoffs.
Any hint of that gratitude was forgotten Friday night when Omaha rallied for a dramatic 7-6 victory and a sweep of the best-of-5 Pacific Coast League semifinal series.
Gorkys Hernandez blasted a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to cap the comeback and send the Storm Chasers back to the Championship Series.
"It was a tough at-bat," Hernandez said. "The pitch before, [reliever Jason Stoffel] threw me a fastball. I fouled it off, so I knew he was probably going to come in with the slider. He threw me a slider and it was just hanging there."
The RedHawks beat Memphis twice in the final days of the regular season to help Omaha overtake the Redbirds for the American Northern Division title. Then the Storm Chasers went to Oklahoma City and won twice on the RedHawks' home field before returning to Werner Park to end the series.
"This team is great," Hernandez said. "Right now, we have a situation where we're having fun. The team is comfortable and everyone is trying the best we can to win the games. We have a chance. We have to continue to play hard and try to win a championship."
Oklahoma City built an early 5-0 lead, getting two-run homers from George Springer and Japhet Amador in the first and third innings, respectively.
The Storm Chasers scratched across runs in the third and fourth, only to see RedHawks newcomer Eric Thames blast a solo shot in the fifth.
Omaha scored twice in the sixth to get within 6-4. In the eighth, Stoffel (0-1) got the first two outs before Paulo Orlando and Mitch Canham drew back-to-back walks. Hernandez stepped up and launched a 2-2 pitch that stayed fair down the left-field line.
"Mitch Canham and Paulo Orlando did a great job and I had a chance there," Hernandez said. "I hit a home run that won the game. It's pretty awesome. It was a great team win."
Maikel Cleto retired the side in the ninth on three ground balls to send the Storm Chasers to the PCL Finals for the third straight year.
"Cleto did a very good job," Hernandez said. "He threw the ball well, he threw strikes. After that, we did celebrate some in the clubhouse. But now we have to prepare for the Final. To win the Final, we'll have to do all the little things right."
In other playoff action:
Las Vegas 3, Salt Lake 2
Dustin Lawley's solo homer snapped a 1-1 tie and Ruben Tejada singled in a key insurance run in the sixth inning as the 51s avoided the sweep.
The Bees got a run back in the eighth as Las Vegas native Efren Navarro hit a leadoff triple and scored on Rusty Ryal's one-out single. Salt Lake put two on in the ninth on Tommy Field's leadoff single and Navarro's two-out walk, but Cory Wade struck out Roberto Lopez looking to end the game.
Las Vegas will try to even the series at home on Saturday afternoon. Gameday box score