The St. Paul Saints proved Friday night that the previous night’s opening season victory was not just a matter of the club being excited about moving into their new stadium. This is a team that can hit and they are getting great pitching and solid defense. Add to that the clutch hitting of players like Angelo Songco and it is easy to see why the club is already 2-0.
In the third the St. Paul Saints finally broke the tie and it was their superstar first baseman who came through for them. Anthony Phillips led off with a walk against Fargo-Moorhead starter Tyler Herron. With Willie Argo at the plate Phillips stole second base on a very close play. Argo walked, bringing Ian Gac to the plate. He swung looking for the fences on the first pitch, then drew a ball to even the count. Herron came right after the Saints slugger and Gac made him pay, lining a double to the wall in left to score both runners.
The RedHawks got one back against Saints starter Dustin Crenshaw in the top of the fourth. He had been perfect through the first three innings, but back-to-back one-out hits by Frank Solerno and Stefen Gartrell put runners at first and second. Slugger Joe Dunnigan struck out bringing Joe Staley to the plate. He ripped a ground ball down the right field line passed a diving Gac to score Salerno. Crenshaw got a ground ball to end the inning, but Fargo-Moorhead had cut the lead in half.
The Saints restored the two-run lead in the bottom half of the inning. Angelo Songco led off the bottom of the fourth with a bloop single to right-center field. One out later Steve Nikorak grounded right back to the pitcher who made a nice play to keep from being drilled by the comebacker. Herron threw to the shortstop for the first out, but Penprase’s throw to first sailed allowing Nikorak to reach second. Anthony Phillips then ripped a single up the middle, scoring Nikorak and putting the Saints back on top 3-1.
In the bottom of the fifth the St. Paul Saints would extend the lead. Sam Maus led with a walk, but was forced out at second on a ground ball by Willie Argo. Gac followed with a fly ball down the right field line that kept sailing toward the line, dropping in just fair. Argo held near first, waiting to see if the ball would drop in but reached third while Gac wound up with a double. Mike Kvansnicka popped out for the second out, but Songco came up clutch, lining a single into center field to score both runs and extend the lead to 5-1.
In the sixth the Saints looked for a chance to blow the game open. Randy Henry took over in relief of Herron. Nikorak led off with a single and moved to second when Anthony Phillips beat out a close play at first for a single of his own. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and there was no one out. Henry then made two great pitches getting Alonzo Harris and Maus to foul out for the first two outs of the inning. That brought Argo to the plate, who lined a single into center field scoring both runners. It was clear that the RedHawks wanted none of Gac as he walked on five pitches. Kvansnicka was then hit on the hand by a pitch to the load the bases.
That brought Songco to the plate. He took two balls then fouled off six straight pitches to stay alive. It was an at-bat for the ages. A ball made the count full, and Songco then fouled off the tenth pitch of the plate appearance. The DH then grounded the 11th pitch of the at-bat into right field for a two-run single to make it 9-1. It was an amazing plate appearance for the Songco that brought praise from his manager. “He had two big hits, both with two-outs. It was a great performance,” George Tsamis explained.
Crenshaw (1-0) was finished after 6 innings. He allowed just 3 hits and a run, while striking out 3. It was a great start for the newcomer making his debut with the St. Paul Saints.
Alex Sogard took over in the seventh for the Saints, and allowed a walk before retiring the side. Mike Zouzalik made his Saints debut with a perfect eighth inning. Robert Coe gave up a single run in the ninth that closed the game out at 9-2.
Herron (0-1) took the loss for Fargo-Moorhead. He gave up 4 earned runs in 5 innings of work.
Songco finished 3-4 with 4 RBI. Gac continued his torrid start with a 2-4 night, 2 runs and 2 RBI. Phillips had a huge night in the No. 9 spot with a perfect 2-2 with 2 walks. He also scored 2 runs and drove in another. He also stole 2 bases.
The St. Paul Saints have scored 17 runs in their first two games, showing that this team is built to score runs and support their pitching staff. Last season’s team struggled with a lack of power, but that does not look like it will be the case this year.
By Robert Pannier