It has been an up and down season for St. Paul Saints starter Jake Esch to this point, as he has been hit hard in two of his three starts. However, on Tuesday night he was untouchable, blanking the Wichita Wingnuts for 7-innings while striking out 10 in the 2-0 victory. Josh Allen had 4-hits in the contest and made an unbelievable play to end a Wichita rally as the Saints took the first two contests of this series.
The St. Paul Saints would grab the lead in the top of the first against Jared Wilson. Josh Allen lined a single into left to get the game underway. Two batters later, Brady Shoemaker singled into right-center to move Allen to third. Jayce Boyd walked to load the bases, and Noah Perio, Jr. brought Allen home with a ground out to make it 1-0.
From there it became a fantastic pitcher’s duel. Wilson left the game in the second with an undisclosed injury and the Wingnuts bullpen was nearly unhittable. Seth Harvey tossed 2.1-innings of scoreless relief. Felix Carvallo came on in the fifth and was brilliant, allowing 3-hits in three scoreless innings. James Campbell then tossed a scoreless eighth to keep this a one-run game.
While the Wichita bullpen was keeping it close, Jake Esch was flat out brilliant. He allowed just a lone base runner in each of the first four frames, with no runner reaching beyond first.
After retiring the side in order in the fifth, the big right-hander found himself in trouble in the sixth. Zach Nehrir and Abel Nieves led off the frame with back-to-back singles. Esch struck out Fernando Perez before walking Tony Thomas to load the bases. That brought John Nester to the plate with a chance to put his team on top with a single swing of the bat. Nester fell behind 0-1, then drilled a ball up the middle that looked like it had center field written all over it, but Allen came from out of nowhere, extending fully to make a diving catch. He quickly got up and tagged second for the double-play and the rally died.
Esch (2-1) came out after seven. He allowed 5-hit and 2-walks while striking out 10. In the eighth, Saints Manager George Tsamis used three different relievers to retire the Wingnuts, opting to go with the matchup.
It stayed a one run game until the ninth, when the St. Paul Saints would add a run against Wingnuts closer Daniel Tillman. The closer retired the first batter of the inning, but Kes Carter launched his third homer of the season just over the wall in left to make it 2-0.
In the ninth, Tom Wilhelmsen came on looking to close it out. He gave up a two-out walk but struck out Logan Trowbridge to end the contest for his fourth save of the season.
Josh Allen finished 4-5 with a run for the St. Paul Saints. Noah Perio, Jr. had 2-hits and an RBI. Both Zach Nehrir and Abel Nieves had 2-hits for the Wingnuts.
The final contest of this three game set is scheduled for Wednesday night. Left-hander Corbin Osburn (2-0, 0.81) will go for Wichita. He will be opposed by RHP Vinny Nittoli (2-0, 2.07). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier