On a night where Kramer Sneed struggled a bit early, the left-hander needed to lean on his hitters to give him a boost, and right fielder Angelo Songco was more than happy to oblige. Songco went 4-4, including a huge two-run home run, leading the St. Paul Saints to a 7-5 victory over the Ottawa Champions Wednesday night.
Ottawa got things going right away when they scored four-runs in the top of the first inning. Albert Cartwright led off the game by drawing a walk, and moved to second on a sacrifice by Roberto Ramirez. Sebastien Boucher followed with a single to center field that brought Cartwright home and the Champions had the early one-run lead. They were not done, however. Mike Schwartz singled to move Boucher to second and, following a wild pitch, both runners came home on a double by Bryce Massanari that made it 3-0. Massanari later scored on a single by Chris Winder and the visitors left the first inning up by four.
Andrew Werner started for Ottawa, and through the first three innings he was pitching well. He retired the side in order in the first, then gave up back-to-back singles to Ian Gac and Songco to start the second. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, but the left-hander showed some incredible poise, striking out the side to leave both runners stranded. He retired the side in order in the third, and it looked like the Champions were going to take their second straight game of this series.
In the fourth the Saints bats came alive, and it was a clutch hit by Dan Kaczrowski that turned the game. With one out Gac walked and Songco followed with a double to put the two in scoring position for the second time in the game with just one out. Mike Kvasnicka had struck out in the second in a similar situation, but this time he drove home Gac with a ground ball to make it 4-1. Joey Paciorek and Anthony Phillips each walked to load the bases, bringing Kaczrowski to the plate.
The Saints second baseman has been coming up with some big hits for the club lately, including a big two-out hit on Monday night that tied the score and kept an inning alive where St. Paul took the lead. With the count 2-0, Kaczrowski doubled down the left field line to score both Songco and Paciorek and the Saints were within one. Alonzo Harris followed with a clutch single of his own, driving an 0-2 pitch into left field for a single to give St. Paul the 5-4 lead.
As they have all series long, the Ottawa Champions remained resilient, scoring a run in the top of fifth to tie the game. Boucher began the inning with a single and was replaced on the base paths on a fielder’s choice by Schwartz. Massanari’s double moved both runners into scoring position and a sacrifice fly by Jon Talley tied the score.
The St. Paul Saints responded right away in their half of the fifth. With two outs Gac doubled to left field bringing Songco to the plate. He had blasted a double to right field earlier in the game that hit off the right field wall, about 15 feet short of a home run, but this time he was not to be denied. He took a first pitch strike, then worked the count to 3-1 before crushing one over the right field fence for his seventh home run of the season. That gave his team a 7-5 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.
It was a huge night for the aspiring baseball superstar. Songco went 4-4 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI. He now has seven hits in his last eight at-bats, raising his average to .345, ninth best in the league. The home run was also the 100th of his professional baseball career.
Sneed retried the first two hitters in the sixth before giving up a two-out triple to Cartwright. The left-hander showed why he has been so good this season, striking out Ramirez on four pitches to end the threat.
From there the bullpen took over. Dylan Chavez pitched 1.1 innings of outstanding relief, allowing one hit while striking out two. Mike Zouzalik finished off the eighth by retiring both batters he faced. In the ninth Ryan Rodebaugh gave up a lead-off hit to Cartwright, then retired the next three hitters to end the game.
Sneed moved his record to 8-1. He took over sole possession of the American Association lead in wins. Rodebaugh earned his 10th save of the season. Werner (5-4) took the loss.
By Robert Pannier