DES MOINES — Omaha’s collapse continued, but the Storm Chasers got a major lift from New Orleans to maintain their one-game lead in the PCL’s American Conference North.
Omaha squandered an early 2-0 lead Wednesday night in losing 5-2 at Iowa. And Memphis appeared set to move into a tie for first after rallying from a three-run deficit to take a 4-3 lead over New Orleans in the eighth.
New Orleans tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, but Memphis took a 7-4 lead in the 10th. Again the Zephyrs tied it, and they finally won it in the 11th on a game-ending homer by Chris Valaika.
The Chasers, who had a five-game lead with 15 to play before losing 8 of 10, have five games left to hold on.
Omaha needs to at least match the Redbirds, who hold the tiebreaker advantage because they won the season series between the teams 9-7. The division winner goes to the PCL playoffs.
And Iowa isn’t done yet, either. By winning the first three games of the series, the Cubs are within three games of Omaha.
Iowa also has won the season series with the Chasers, and Omaha would be knocked out if there were a three-way tie for first, as well.
The Omaha-Iowa series concludes at 6:35 Thursday night, with Chasers right-hander Yordano Ventura (5-3, 3.52 ERA) facing right-hander Casey Coleman (4-3, 3.17).
Memphis, which wraps up its series with New Orleans on Thursday, holds the tiebreaker advantage over Iowa.
Omaha finishes the regular season with a four-game home series against Round Rock. Memphis concludes its season-ending, 13-game road trip with a four-game series at Oklahoma City and Iowa travels to last-place Nashville.
Wednesday started well for Omaha, as the first four hitters all singled, scoring one run on Ben Broussard’s hit to load the bases with no outs.
Another run scored as Brian Fletcher grounded into a double play, but Kyle Hendricks shut down the Chasers the rest of the way — allowing just two more hits while going eight innings.
Hendricks, 23, is 3-0 in five starts with Iowa. Including his time with Class AA Tennessee, Hendricks is 13-3 with a 1.96 ERA.
Felipe Paulino (0-3), making his fifth Omaha start while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, started strong. He struck out five of the first 10 batters he faced and allowed one hit while walking two through three scoreless innings.
But the Cubs rallied for four runs in the fourth after the first three batters reached on hits — capped by Ty Wright’s two-run single. Iowa moved ahead on an error by catcher Manny Pina and got its fourth run on Tim Torres’ two-out RBI single.
Paulino also left a bit earlier than scheduled with an apparent injury, according to a radio report. Paulino, whose 88 pitches were a season high, allowed four runs — three earned — on six hits, while walking three and striking out five.