In an 8-5 loss to Kansas City Wednesday at Haymarket Park, when plenty went wrong for the Lincoln Saltdogs, Curt Smith still provided a jolt of hope to make things interesting.
Lincoln (27-24) trailed 1-0 in the third inning when manager Bobby Brown was ejected for vigorously arguing a safe call on a tag at second base by Ivan Marin. When the next batter stepped to the plate, Smith did his best to make up for it.
He tracked down a fly ball in right field and rifled the ball home to throw out T-Bones leadoff man Dylan Tice. Kansas City (33-17) got another run after that, but Smith wasn’t done. He hit a two-run double to tie the game at 2.
But Kansas City responded quickly to Lincoln’s spark, scoring three runs in the fourth. Then Keith Curcio launched a two-run home run to right field in the fifth to make it 7-2.
“Early in the game, I think we made some good plays, and it still didn’t go our way,” Smith said. “So it kind of brings you down a little bit, but it happened already and you forget about it and continue.”
Christian Ibarra hit a two-run homer in the fifth to cut the deficit to 7-4, but the T-Bones added an insurance run in the seventh.
Newly signed outfielder Joe Moran drove home a run in the bottom of the ninth to cut it to 8-5 before Smith flied out to end the game, and Kansas City secured the three-game sweep.
Moran, a Scottsbluff native and Bellevue University graduate who was playing in his first professional game, rejoined the Saltdogs after he spent part of spring training with the team. He injured an elbow in the preseason and is still recovering. He batted second as designated hitter Wednesday as he continues to rehab.
“A little weird at first just getting back in there after a while, a little over-anxious I guess," Moran said. "I was trying to do too much at first. But once I calmed down and settled in, I was a lot more comfortable.”
Moran will look to use his speed to bolster the Saltdogs in the outfield and on the base paths.
“Speed and hustle. That’s my two main things,” he said. “My junior college coach used to say, ‘Speed and hustle are the only things that show up to the field every day.’ That’s what I try to bring.”
Lincoln is off Thursday before heading to Sioux City, Iowa, for a three-game series that begins Friday.