A day after twice leaving the bases loaded in a 1-0 loss to the Cleburne Railroaders, Dante Bichette, Jr. responded in a big way, rapping out 3-hits and driving in 2 in the St. Paul Saints 8-3 victory over the Wichita Wingnuts. That helped snap the 13 game scoreless string of the Wingnuts Casey Harman and made a winner of Eddie Medina in his first start against his old mates.
Casey Harman moved the shutout streak to 14 by retiring the St. Paul Saints on three ground outs to end the first. However, in the second, the Saints would score a run. With one down, Noah Perio, Jr. lined a ball into left-center that he legged out for a double. Richard Prigatano moved him to third on a ground out and he scored on a clutch two-out base hit by Dante Bichette, Jr.
An inning later, the lead became two. Justin O’Conner led off the inning with a deep drive off the scoreboard in left-center for his team leading third homer of the year. That made it 2-0.
Wichita would get one of those runs back in the bottom of the third. Leo Vargas led off the inning by grounding a ball down the line in left that he legged out for a double. Two batters later, Zach Nehrir beat out a ground ball to short for a single, putting runners at the corners with one down. Abel Nieves followed with a chopper over the third baseman’s head for a single that scored Vargas and it was 2-1.
In the sixth, St. Paul restored their lead to two. Max Murphy singled to start the inning and Brady Shoemaker followed with a base hit to put two on with none out. It looked like Harman would get out of it when he induced Jayce Boyd to hit into a double-play, and then got Perio to ground a ball down to short. However, Vargas could not scoop the ball for an error. Murphy scored and it was 3-1.
In the top of the seventh, the Saints would get a much needed insurance run. Bichette led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. Harman struck out O’Conner before hitting Allen. With runners at first and second and two down, Max Murphy drilled a ball down the line in right that he turned into a double. Bichette scored to make it 4-1.
The Wichita Wingnuts responded right away in bottom half of the inning. John Nester led off the inning by drilling the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for his second homer of the year. Ryne Willard followed by beating out a ground ball to the second baseman for a single.
That brought Mike Devine in from the bullpen. He attempted to pick off Willard, but his throw was wild, allowing Willard to get all the way to third. The Saints reliever remained cool, striking out Vargas and Watkins to make it two down, but Nehrir would deliver a clutch double down the line in left, scoring Willard to make it 4-3.
In the eighth, Wichita looked like they would tie the score. Fernando Perez walked against Ken Frosch to start the inning. Beck Wheeler came on and walked Tony Thomas and Logan Trowbridge followed with a sacrifice to put two runners into scoring position with just one down. That brought John Nester to the plate who lofted a ball down the line in right field. Max Murphy made the catch and Perez tagged to come home. Murphy fired a strike to the plate that O’Conner grabbed and then quickly turned and tagged the sliding Perez for the double-play to end the inning.
In the ninth, the St. Paul Saints would take a commanding lead. Bichette led off the inning with a shot to left field that cleared the wall for his second home run of the season. Jordan Smith followed with a base hit up the middle, bringing Justin O’Conner to the plate. O’Conner attempted to bunt but the ball rode in and hit him. Manager Brent Clevlen came out to argue, pointing out that during the butt attempt it looked like the ball hit the bat. Twice the umpires conferred but did not agree. That led to Clevlen’s first ejection of the year. Allen followed with a drive to right-center that hit off the diving center fielder’s glove and in for a triple. Both runners scored and it was 7-3. A base hit by Shoemaker brought home Allen and it was 8-3, which would be the final.
Eddie Medina (2-0) earned the victory in his first start against his old team. The righty went 6-innings, allowing 6-hits, 3-walks and 2-earned runs. He struck out 5.
Dante Bichette, Jr. was 3-4 with 2-runs and 2-RBI to raise his average to .319. Max Murphy and Brady Shoemaker each had 2-hits and an RBI. Zach Nehrir had 2-hits for the Wichita Wingnuts.
Game 2 of this three game set is scheduled for tomorrow at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier