It was a battle of two longtime friends on Thursday night, as the St. Paul Saints, led by manager George Tsamis, took on the Kansas City T-Bones, led by Joe Calfapietra. Round one went to the Saints, as Brady Shoemaker homered twice and drove in four runs in the 9-2 victory. That backed Chris Nunn in his second straight outstanding outing for St. Paul, extending the Saints lead in the North Division to a full game.
Kansas City would take the lead in the bottom of the first-inning. A Dylan Tice double got the inning started and he would move to third on a wild pitch. With two down, Nick Torres slapped a base hit up the middle, scoring Tice to make it 1-0 T-Bones.
The St. Paul Saints were held scoreless through the first two frames, but would tie the score in the top of the third. Aaron Gretz got the inning going with a base hit and moved to second on a sacrifice. With two down, Burt Reynolds singled into right bringing Gretz home to tie the game at one.
The T-Bones would take back the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Todd Cunningham started the inning by drawing a walk and back to back singles by Torres and Noah Perio, Jr. loaded the bases with no one out. This had the makings of a huge inning, but Saints starter Chris Nunn was able to get Taylor Featherston to ground into a double play. That scored Cunningham, but Kansas City would be held to the lone run as Dexter Kjerstad struck out to end the inning.
The Saints responded with two runs in the top of the fifth. Kansas City starter Lucas Irvine retired the first two batters of the inning, but Max Murphy kept it alive with a base hit. That brought Kyle Barrett to the plate, who cleared the wall in left field with his first home run of the season to give St. Paul a 3-2 lead.
An inning later, the long ball would help to extend the lead to three. Brady Shoemaker led off by hitting the first pitch he saw for his fourth home run of the year. Irvine quickly retired the next two batters, but Matt Snyder would foul off three straight pitches to stay alive before hitting his first home run of the season to make it a 5-2 lead.
In the seventh, the St. Paul Saints would take a commanding lead. Gretz was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and moved to second on a base hit by Barrett two batters later. Jackson Lowery came out of the bullpen for Kansas City and would walk Reynolds to load the bases. A wild pitch brought Gretz home before Shoemaker cleared the wall in left-center with his second home run of the day. That extended the lead to 9-2, which would be the final.
Chris Nunn (2-1) came out after seven. He allowed 7-hits, 2-walks, and 2-earned runs in his third start of the season and longest since joining the Saints. Nunn struck out 8.
Brady Shoemaker finished 2-3, with 2-runs, 2-walks, and 4-RBI. Kyle Barrett was 2-4 with 2-runs and 2-RBI. Kansas City was led by Nick Torres who had 3-hits.
These two teams will square off again in the second contest of their four-game series on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier