It has been about two weeks since the St. Paul Saints were in first place in the North Division, but they reclaimed a share of the division lead after Chris Nunn allowed just three-hits in six-innings in a 9-1 win over the Gary Southshore RailCats. The victory was the second in this four game series, putting them into a first place tie with Gary.
After Nunn blanked the RailCats in the top of the first, the St. Paul Saints would give their starter the lead in the bottom half of the inning. With two down, Burt Reynolds connected on his 16th home run of the season to put his team on top 1-0.
In the third, the Saints would extend their lead. Max Murphy singled to lead off the inning but Gary Southshore starter Jeff McKenzie was able to retire the next two batters and it looked like he would get out of the frame. However, Brady Shoemaker blasted his ninth home run of the season and second of the series to give St. Paul a 3-0 lead.
In the fourth, the long ball would come back to hurt McKenzie again. With one down, Nathaniel Maggio connected on his sixth homer of the year. Like Shoemaker, he had homered the previous night against the RailCats.
St. Paul Saints starter Chris Nunn had allowed two hits to the first four innings of the game, as Gary Southshore struggled to try to get any kind of offense going against the left-hander. They would finally grab a run in the top of the fifth. Will Savage led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a ground out to cut the RailCats deficit to four.
However, they would get no closer. Nunn (5-2) allowed a two out walk in the sixth, but that would be the last base runner to reach. The left-hander finished with just 3-hits and one earned run allowed. He walked one and struck out 6.
Beck Wheeler came in in the top of the seventh and tossed two scoreless innings, striking out three. That was huge, because McKenzie had pitched well despite giving up the four runs. In the eighth, he seemed to run out of gas and the Saints jumped on him for five runs.
Shoemaker led off with a single and moved to third when Zach Walters lined a double down the line in right. After Dante Bichette, Jr. was intentionally walked, Justin O’Connor doubled down the line in left bringing home Shoemaker and Walters to extend the lead to five. Next up was Joey Wong, who singled into left field. Bichette easily came around to score and O’Conner came home when the left fielder let the ball skip past him for an error. Murphy followed with a single that brought home Wong to give the Saints a 9-1 lead.
In the ninth, Zach Jones came on for St. Paul. He gave up a single and a double with one out to put two in scoring position, but struck out Andy Paz and Savage two end the game.
Brady Shoemaker finished 2-5 with 2-runs and 2-RBI. Justin O’Conner was 2-4 with a run and 2-RBI. Max Murphy also had 2-hits. Tim Pugh led the RailCats with 2-hits.
These two teams will take to the diamond on Saturday night with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the North division. Trevor Foss (3-2, 3.46) will start for St. Paul. He will be opposed by Gabe Perez (4-1, 3.34). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier