One inning proved to be pivotal for the Sioux Falls Canaries as a three-run homer by Chris Grayson in a four-run fifth helped power the Canaries to a 5-3 victory over the St. Paul Saints. That ruined an otherwise brilliant start by Eddie Medina, who was outdueled by Saints archnemesis Joe Bircher. Brady Shoemaker hit a three-run homer for St. Paul.
Both Eddie Medina and Joe Bircher seemed unhittable early on. Medina did not allow hit through the first three innings, seeing that run come to an end with two outs in the fourth on a single by former St. Paul catcher Maxx Garrett. Bircher allowed just a lone hit in each of the first four innings against the Saints, as both hurlers were on the top of their game.
However, the fifth inning proved to be a challenging one for both pitchers. In the top of the fifth, Mike Hart and Tyler Wolfe led off with back-to-back singles. Aaron Gretz attempted to move both runners over with a sacrifice, but the throw by Medina to first was wild, allowing Hart to come all the way around to score. That brought Grayson to the plate, who crushed his fifth home run of the season, a three-run blast to put Sioux Falls on top, 4-0.
St. Paul responded in the bottom of the fifth. Josh Allen singled to start the inning but was replaced on the base paths on a fielder’s choice by Max Murphy. Noah Perio, Jr. walked to put two on with one down, bringing Brady Shoemaker to the plate. He took the second pitch he saw from Bircher over the wall in left field for his second homer of the season and it was suddenly a one run game.
Nicco Blank came on for the Sioux Falls Canaries in the sixth and tossed two shutout innings. Kyle Schepel would toss a scoreless eighth, striking out two.
In the top of the ninth, Sioux Falls would add an insurance run. With one down, Grayson beat out a ground ball for a single. He stole second and scored on a single by Jordan Smith to make it 5-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, James Jones came on looking to close it out. He quickly recorded two outs before giving up a base hit to Perio. Shoemaker reached on an error to put runners at the corners with two down, but Jones would strike out Richard Prigatano to end the contest for his fourth save of the season.
Joe Bircher (2-3) earned the victory, going 5-innings. The lefty allowed 7-hits, 3-walks, and 3-earned runs. Chris Grayson finished 2-5 with 2-runs scored, and 3-RBI. Brady Shoemaker drove in all three Saints runs.
Jake Esch (2-1, 6.41) will look to give the St. Paul Saints the series victory on Sunday. He will be opposed by Dylan Thompson (2-1, 5.92). First pitch is scheduled for 5:05.
By Robert Pannier