By Clay Fowler
Killeen Daily Herald
ROUND ROCK Brooks Conrad had already done his part at the plate.
But with Oklahoma's speedy leadoff hitter racing down the first-base line, the Express' second baseman needed to not only deny Esteban German his fifth trip of the night to first base, but throw him out on the back end of a game-ending double play.
Conrad's eighth-inning solo home run broke a tie and proved to be the game-winner, giving the Round Rock Express a 3-2 win over the Oklahoma RedHawks on Friday night at Dell Diamond.
"In those pitcher's duels if you get one to hit you better do something with it," said Conrad. "I wasn't looking to hit a home run, but he left one up and I got all of it. It couldn't have come at a better time."
The Express second baseman's only hit of the night was a towering shot that bent around the right-field foul pole with one out in the eighth inning.
German, conversely, was 2-for-2 on top of two walks when he strode to the plate in the last inning, making Round Rock manager Jackie Moore admittedly nervous.
"I said a little prayer that he'd hit a double-play ground ball," Moore said with a wink. "Maybe the law of averages caught up with (German)."
Round Rock reliever Travis Driskill (3-0) drew the double-play ball off German to cap his two scoreless innings and a fine night on the mound from both sides. Express starter Jared Gothreaux gave up five hits over six innings, allowing two runs.
Oklahoma's Marshall McDougall added to his Pacific Coast League-leading RBI total in Gothreaux's final inning with a two-run double that one-hopped over the right field wall into the RedHawks bull pen. German and Jason Conti, who opened the frame with a walk and single respectively, scored on the play.
The RedHawks' bull pen got a little more involved in the bottom of the inning after Oklahoma starter John Hudgins hit and walked the first two batters of a frame in which he gave up two runs on two hits. Royce Huffman ended Hudgins night by driving a bases-loaded single to left-center field, tying the game at two.
Hudgins allowed two runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking two.
Round Rock (12-10) kept pace with the Albuquerque Isotopes for first place in the American Southern division, while knocking Oklahoma (11-11) out of the tie for the top spot.
"(Oklahoma) is a heck of a ball club," said Moore. "It's going to be a battle all year, but it's too early to start looking at the standings."
n EXPRESS NOTES Pitcher Ezequiel Astacio made his last start for the Triple-A Express on Thursday before joining the Houston Astros, the first major-league team of his career. Astacio (0-3, 4.30 ERA) was supposed to start for the Astros last week but his major league debut was rained out, sending the right-hander back to Round Rock for one last performance. He is scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Houston ... Three-time All-Star Lance Berkman will make a rehabilitation start for Round Rock, his first baseball since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament this summer playing flag football. ... Express Relief pticher Dave Burba is day-to-day after injuring his right hamstring on Thursday night.
Contact Clay Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org