The series started late, having to wait a day due to rain, but the delay did not have a negative impact on St. Paul Saints starter Chris Nunn, who allowed 3-hits and no runs in 8-innings to lead the Saints to a 4-0 victory over the Gary Southshore RailCats. Burt Reynolds had the big hit of the game, a two-run homer in the first, helping to stake St. Paul to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
It did not take the St. Paul Saints very long to get on the board. After Chris Nunn retired the RailCats in order in the top of the first, Kyle Barrett got the inning going with a double down the line in left. That brought Burt Reynolds to the plate, who had sat out much of the past two weeks with a nagging hamstring injury. Gary Southshore starter Keaton Steele got ahead 0-2, but Reynolds crushed a hanging curve ball over the left field wall to make it 2-0 Saints.
An inning later, St. Paul extended their lead. Justin O’Conner, who had been named as the Defensive Player of the Year in the American Association earlier in the day, doubled to center to start the inning. A ground ball moved him to third and he scored on a wild pitch to extend the lead to three.
The Saints added to their lead in the sixth. Brady Shoemaker led off the inning by clubbing his first home run of the post-season. That made it 4-0.
That was far more than enough runs for Chris Nunn (1-0). The left-hander absolutely dominated the contest. Nunn did not allow his first hit until Andy DeJesus doubled to start the fourth. He gave up a one out hit in the fifth, then retired 10 in a row.
His only trouble came in the eighth. With two down, D.K. Carey walked and Will Savage followed with a double. However, Nunn remained cool, striking out Andy DeJesus to end the threat. Nunn came out after the eighth. He allowed 3-hits and 2-walks, striking out 6.
Beck Wheeler came on in the ninth looking to just finish things off. He retired the Gary Southshore lineup in order to end the contest.
Burt Reynolds finished 1-4 with a run and 2-RBI. Brady Shoemaker was 1-3 with a run and an RBI. He also drew a walk.
Keaton Steele (0-1) went the distance for Gary Southshore, allowing 7-hits and 4-runs in 8-innings.
Game 2 of this series will be tomorrow night in St. Paul. Nine-game winner Eddie Medina will go for the St. Paul Saints. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier