by Adam Cook
The Kansas City Monarchs (45-22) stayed dominant over the Canaries from Sioux Falls (24-41), completing the combined shutout behind a strong performance from starter Nick Belzer and a dominant showing from the bullpen on Saturday in South Dakota.
Belzer went four innings, allowing no runs but recording no strikeouts before a new Monarch toed the rubber each inning for the rest of the game, shutting the Canaries out 3-0.
Monarchs starting pitcher Belzer took a moment to get settled, allowing a double and a walk to the first two batters. Fortunately for Belzer and the Monarchs, he knew how to time his double play balls, as a 6-4-3 double play helped him escape the inning unscathed.
Belzer and Sioux Falls starter Cesilio Pimentel then both traded 1-2-3 innings through the top of the third.
The streak was broken by Belzer’s allowing another two-baserunner inning when John Nester and Osvaldo Martinez hit back-to-back singles. Again, Belzer worked his way out of it by way of the ground ball with back-to-back ground ball outs, escaping once again scoreless.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Canaries’ offense again showed some life with a single and a double, putting runners at the corners with two away, but Sioux Falls’ Kona Quiggle ended the inning with a foul out.
The fifth inning marked the end of the road for Belzer, as Brian Glowicki began the fifth on the bump, ending Belzer’s night with four innings pitched, five hits, no runs, and no strikeouts. Glowicki’s entrance marked the beginning of a dominant night for the Monarchs’ bullpen, as he retired the side in four batters to send the game to the sixth, where the Monarchs’ bats finally came to life.
It began with a single from Willie Abreu, turning the lineup over to the top for leadoff hitter Darnell Sweeney, who then roped a double to right field, putting runners at second and third with no outs for Kevin Santa.
Santa didn’t have to take the bat off his shoulder to give the Monarchs the first lead of the game, however, as Abreu came across the plate on a wild pitch from Pimentel, advancing Sweeney to third. After a Santa strikeout, slugger David Thompson whacked a double to left field, scoring Sweeney and making the score 2-0 Kansas City.
Back-to-back walks from the next two batters, Matt Adams and Casey Gillaspie, brought newly converted first baseman J.C. Escarra to the batter’s box in a bases loaded, one out situation, where he became the third straight Monarch to be awarded a free pass, scoring Thompson.
This was the last straw for Pimentel, as he was taken out for relief pitcher Stevie Ledesma, who promptly struck out the next two Monarchs, turning the inning over with the score 3-0 Kansas City.
Brock Gilliam, Brandon Koch and Jeremy Rhoades took over in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and allowed a combined one baserunner, and Koch struck out the side in order.
This brought the Monarchs to the ninth inning ahead 3-0, where closer Jameson McGrane retired Zane Gurwitz, Jabari Henry and Gavin LaValley in order, securing his 14th save, the combined shutout, and the sixth straight win for the Monarchs.
The Monarchs will go for the sweep in game three of their three-game series against the Sioux Falls Canaries at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, July 31, in South Dakota. The game can be heard on the Monarchs Broadcast Network with the pre-game beginning at 12:30 p.m. and the video stream airing on aabaseball.tv.
Tickets to Monarchs games can be purchased by calling 913-328-5618 or by visiting monarchsbaseball.com.