It is interesting how the twists of life work. Just a week ago St. Paul Saints first baseman Angelo Songco was in California waiting for the birth of his child. The delivery looked like it was ahead of schedule and so Songco had headed home to be with his wife. That delivery did not come and so on the day that the playoffs began the slugger returned to the club and has been the one true catalyst to their offense. Saturday night he proved to be that again, driving in all three runs in the club’s 3-1 victory over the Sioux City Explorers. That kept the Saints alive, now down 2-1.
John Straka started for the Sioux City Explorers, looking to close out the series and send his team to the American Association championship series. Straka was opposed by 14-game winner, Dustin Crenshaw, who had dominated every team in the league but Sioux City this season.
For the third straight game the St. Paul Saints scored first. Crenshaw retired the Explorers in order in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first Alonzo Harris led off with a single and moved to third two batters later when David Espinosa singled. Straka was able to get Vinny DiFazio to pop out but, with two outs, the clutch Songco delivered a pop fly into center field that found no man’s land, dropping in for a base hit that scored Harris to make it 1-0.
That was the way that the score would remain through the first five innings. Both pitchers seemed in utter command, especially Crenshaw who gave up just four hits and a walk through the first five frames.
In the top of the sixth Sioux City was able to tie the score. The right-hander retired the first two batters of the inning, but Rene Tosoni’s shot to right field just cleared the wall by about two inches giving him a home run and tying the score.
In the bottom half of the inning that Saints responded immediately. Espinosa got it started by hitting a ball to right-center field, then hustling right out of the box to beat the throw to second for a double. DiFazio followed with a single that moved Espinosa to third, bringing Songco to the plate. He took an 0-1 pitch from Straka and drilled it over the left fielder’s head for a double, bringing both runners home and giving the Saints the lead again. As Songco strolled into second he pumped his hands together and was fired up as the Saints regained a lead they would not relinquish.
Crenshaw was done after seven innings, pitching an absolute gem. He allowed 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 5. He threw just 80 pitches.
Mike Zouzalik came in for the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning. That brought Ryan Rodebaugh in for the ninth. He gave up a hit and a walk right away and the tension was on. The infielders and DiFazio called for a brief timeout and gathered at the mound. No one knows what was said, but Rodebaugh came out of that talk focused, retiring the next three batters in order to preserve the 3-1 victory.
Songco finished the game 2-3 with 3 RBI. The Saints have scored six runs in this series, and all came home off of the bat of Angelo Songco. Espinosa was 2-4 with a run scored. Tosoni had 3 hits in a losing effort for Sioux City.
Game 4 is tomorrow night in St. Paul. Game time is 5:05.
By Robert Pannier