A night after the Sioux Falls Canaries ace Joe Bircher held the St. Paul Saints bats at bay for most of the evening, it was time for the Saints to turn to their own ace in leading them to victory, as Jake Esch held the Canaries to one run in six innings in 4-1 victory. The right-hander had his second straight outstanding outing in winning his third game in a row. Dante Bichette, Jr. scored 2-runs and Richard Prigatano drove in two to pace the offense.
Scoreless after one, the Saints would take the lead with solo runs in the second and third innings. In the top of the second, Canaries starter Dylan Thompson struck out the first batter of the inning, but walked Dante Bichette, Jr. before giving up a base hit to Richard Prigatano. Bichette stole third and scored on a fielder’s choice by Kes Carter to make it 1-0.
J.J. Gould led off the bottom of the third with his second homer of the year to extend the lead to two.
That looked to be far more than enough support for Jake Esch on the night. The right-hander retired Sioux Falls in order in the first before giving up two hits in the second. With runners at first and second and one down, Esch got Mike Hart to fly out before getting Tyler Wolfe to ground out to end the inning.
The Saints starter walked the first batter in the third and fourth, but neither runner would advance. In the fifth, the Canaries got a leadoff single from Hart, but he was erased on a double-play.
In the sixth, Sioux Falls would finally get on the board. Blake Schmit walked with one down and moved to third on a single by Jordan Smith. A single by Jabari Henry brought Schmit across the plate to cut the deficit for Sioux Falls to one. There were still two on with one down, but Esch was not letting this contest get away. A ground out moved both runners into scoring position before he got Burt Reynolds to ground to short to end the threat.
Jake Esch (3-1) came out after 6-innings. He allowed 5-hits, 3-walks, and an earned run. He also struck out 3.
Thompson was also pitching well. After giving up the two runs, he shut the St. Paul Saints down. Thompson came out after 6.1, allowing 6-hits and 2-runs while striking out 4.
Clinging to a one-run lead, the Saints would get a little breathing room in the eighth. Noah Perio, Jr. led off with a walk and moved to second when Bichette singled two batters later. Jake Smith relieved for Trevor Janich, and tossed a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position. Prigatano followed with a double into the gap that scored both runners and the St. Paul lead became three.
Ken Frosch and Beck Wheeler combined to blank the Canaries for two innings. Tom Wilhelmsen came on in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single, but he would induce a double-play before striking out Wolfe to end the game for his sixth save.
Dante Bichette, Jr. finished 2-3 with 2-runs scored. Richard Prigatano was 2-4 with 2-RBI and a double. Jabari Henry was 2-4 with an RBI for the Canaries. The victory was No. 999 for St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis.
The St. Paul Saints welcome the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks on Monday. Vinny Nittoli (3-1, 2.02) will take the ball. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier