If a club was ever looking for a tune-up that showed they were ready for the playoffs, the St. Paul Saints got just that as they clubbed out 17-hits in an 11-2 victory over the New Jersey Jackals early Monday afternoon. The lineup featured only a few of the players that are expected to start games in the post-season, but showed that any lineup that manager George Tsamis puts on the field has the potential to put up big numbers.
The St. Paul Saints scored early and often in this contest. Alonzo Harris got it all started against New Jersey starter Shawn Sanford by drawing a walk to start the bottom of the first. He would then steal second, setting a Saints single-season record for stolen bases with 39. Ryan Lashley moved Harris to third with an infield single, and Ian Gac’s sacrifice fly scored Harris to make it 1-0.
In the bottom of the second St. Paul added another run. Steve Nikorak walked with one out and Dan Kaczrowski followed with a double that moved Nikorak to third. Willie Argo then laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt that scored Nikorak to put the Saints up by two.
In the bottom of the third that lead became four. Sam Maus started it with a single and moved to third when Lashley laced a double to the gap. Gac followed with a double of his own off the right-center field wall, scoring both runners to make it 4-0. For Gac he would finish the season with a 2-4 day, with a run scored and 3 RBI. Heading into the playoffs the Saints DH has a nine-game hitting streak, going 11-32 with 5 runs and 5 RBI.
In the fifth the Saints plated two more. Gac lined a single into left field with one out. Nate Hanson and Joey Paciorek followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases, with just one out. Nikorak’s single into left field scored Gac and a walk to Dan Kaczrowski scored Hanson to make it 6-0.
St. Paul Saints starter Robert Coe had been cruising through the first five innings. He allowed a first inning walk, and two second inning singles, then got on a roll. He retired the side in order in the third, before two runners reached in the fourth. A ground out ended the threat, and in the fifth he allowed a single with one out, but struck out the third batter of the inning for the second out, before getting a comebacker to end the inning.
In the sixth the Jackals finally got on the board. Matt Helms singled to get it started and he scored on a triple by D’Vontrey Richardson to make it 6-1. A ground out by Jared Schlehuber scored Richardson and New Jersey was down by four.
That would be the last inning of work for Coe (12-3). Despite a blistering hot day in St. Paul, Coe showed no signs of wilting at all. The right-hander went 6 innings, allowing 6 hits, 3 walks and 2 earned runs, while striking out 7. It was his sixth straight win, and he looks quite ready for the first round of the playoffs.
In the seventh the Saints would add four more runs, primarily thanks to Steve Nikorak. Hanson walked and moved to second on a wild pitch to get the inning going. Joey Paciorek then drew a walk, bringing Nikorak to the plate with two on and no one out. He worked the count to 3-1 before drilling a shot deep over the center field wall for a three-run homer, his sixth homer of the season. Maus’ RBI single scored Kaczrowski and it was 10-2 St. Paul.
The Saints added one more run in the bottom of the eighth. Hanson doubled with one out and scored on an RBI single by Paciorek. That provided the final run in the 11-2 St. Paul Saints victory.
Hanson and Lashley each belted out three hits. Hanson scored three runs and Lashley added another run scored. Nikorak was 2-3 with 2 runs scored and 4 runs driven in. Kaczrowski and Paciorek also had two hits, a run and an RBI a piece.
The St. Paul Saints finished 74-26, one game ahead of the Wichita Wingnuts record season of 2014, but a game behind the new record holder, the Sioux City Explorers, who finished 75-25. These two teams will meet in the playoffs starting Wednesday night in Sioux City.
By Robert Pannier