Express pull out all stops against Sounds

Astacio hurls complete-game shutout to send Round Rock into Finals

(Round Rock Express)

By Dan Pieringer / | September 10, 2006 1:39 PM

After being shut out in Game 4, Round Rock returned the favor Sunday, beating visiting Nashville, 8-0, in Game 5 to advance to the Pacific Coast League's Championship Series.

Round Rock starter Zeke Astacio (1-0) pitched the complete-game shutout, scattering seven hits and a walk while striking out four.

There were some dramatics in the contest. Astacio retired the final batter of the seventh inning on a broken-bat grounder to the pitcher. He jumped to avoid the barrel of the bat flying toward his legs, fielded the grounder and made the throw to first for the putout. He left the field to a standing ovation.

"In the locker room before the game, you see everybody wants to make a lot of runs and wants to win," Astacio said. "It's easy work when you're ahead because they want to swing. If I can locate my fastball, then I can make outs."

Joe McEwing went 2-for-4 with a home run, three runs scored and two RBIs to lead the Express.

"We just tried to go out and have quality at-bats," McEwing said. "Yesterday we didn't swing the bats very well, and we ran into a guy who threw the ball really well. So today we wanted to come out and be aggressive and have quality at-bats and we were able to do that. Everybody contributed, and it was a great team win for us."

The Express got to Sounds starter Ben Hendrickson (0-1) in the first, when Mike Rodriguez led off with a walk and McEwing followed with a single. Brooks Conrad hit a sacrifice fly to plate Rodriguez. After Hendrickson issued another walk, consecutive singles by Hector Gimenez and Royce Huffman put Round Rock up three.

"We were fortunate enough to get some early runs," Express manager Jackie Moore said. "Three runs in the first inning were huge for us, obviously. And we just took it from there. In a game like this, we didn't seem to let them get any momentum."

The Express added three more runs on just two hits in the fifth, taking advantage of a walk and two hit batsmen. Jesse Garcia's two-out, two-run single gave the Express a 6-0 advantage and chased Hendrickson.

"We wanted to keep the pressure on them, and we did that," McEwing said. "Zeke was outstanding. From pitch one in the first inning, the confidence was there. He went out there and threw strikes. It was just one of those outings where [a pitcher] just steps up. He was outstanding."

Nashville's relief pitching didn't have the answer for the Express, as Mike Rodriguez led off the sixth with an infield single and McEwing punctuated the scoring with a two-run homer to left field.

The Express face the Tucson Sidewinders in the PCL Championship Series, beginning Tuesday in Tucson.

"We've got one more level to go, and the only way we could get there was to win the game today," Moore said.

Dan Pierienger is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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