Augustana alum Jordan Barth hits walk-off grand slam to lead Canaries to thrilling comeback win
Former Viking off to strong start in debut with Sioux Falls' minor league franchise.
SIOUX FALLS — Jordan Barth played a key role in helping Augustana win the Division II national championship in 2018. That was the highlight of his baseball career.
Wednesday night at the Birdcage, he produced another memory of a lifetime. The 2nd year pro hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th to help the Canaries complete a huge comeback with a seven-run inning and 11-8 victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs. It was Barth's first home run as a Canary, and capped off what's been a strong first week in his first season in the American Association. It also provided a big spark to a Birds team that needed the win as they look to establish themselves as a contender in the early going.
Reached Thursday morning, Barth admitted he didn't get a lot of sleep after his big hit.
"I was pretty pumped up for a few hours after," said the 24-year-old infielder. "It was the first walk-off hit of my life. I've been in that situation quite a few times and just never got the results. It was awesome to finally come through like that."
The Birds trailed 8-4 when they came to bat in the 9th. Marshall Rich led off with a single, but Wyatt Ulrich flied out, leaving the Saltdogs a double play away from ending it. Darnell Sweeney singled and Welington Dotel doubled, though, cutting the lead to 8-5. After Jabari Henry walked, Mike Hart singled in two more to make it 8-7 with Hunter Clanin coming to bat.
"If Hunter wasn't going to do it," Barth remembers thinking, "then I was going to."
Clanin walked, loading the bases, meaning Barth needed only a sacrifice fly to tie the game. But he quickly took two strikes to fall behind 0-2. After taking a ball and fouling one off, Lincoln lefty David Zoz tried to get Barth on a slider. Barth crushed it down the line for a grand slam.
"I think he was trying to go back foot and he left it middle-in," Barth said. "I knew right away (it was gone)."
The win improved the Canaries to 3-3 on the season. Though they've experienced some serious pitching woes in the early going, they appear to have the makings of a truly outstanding lineup, which Barth said gave the team confidence they could mount the comeback when they came to bat in the 9th.
"Our lineup is so good top-to-bottom that anything can happen in that situation," Barth said. "It was just a bunch of gritty at-bats. Everybody getting on base and doing their job."
Barth played second base in the game after spending the first five at shortstop while the Birds awaited the arrival of former major leaguer Ozzie Martinez. With Martinez (who went 3-for-4 in Wednesday's game) now in the fold, Barth will have to fight for playing time, but his bat and versatility should give him plenty of opportunities. After batting .288 with five homers in 77 games in the Pioneer League last year, Barth is hitting .304 with a .939 OPS in six games for Sioux Falls. He tripled in his first at-bat as a Canary, and finished his Augustana career with a .379 average, 42 homers, 38 steals and 219 RBI in 222 games.
Getting into a big league organization isn't out of the question, and sharing an infield with a pair of former major leaguers — Martinez and 3rd baseman Darnell Sweeney — should only help him sharpen his game.
"I'm having a blast," Barth said. "It's been six games and I can honestly say this is one of the most fun teams I've been on. Having two major leaguers in the infield means I'm learning every day. The competition is better than I've played against before but it's still just baseball. You bring your glove, bring your bat and try to hit the ball."