Justin O’Conner Leads Early Onslaught, Saints Sweep Wingnuts

For the first time in franchise history, the Wichita Wingnuts were swept at home. It seemed unlikely that it would be the St. Paul Saints who would be the team to do it, considering that they had not won a series in Wichita since 2010 but, thanks to two home runs by Justin O’Conner, the Saints scored eight runs in the first three innings of the game on their way to a 10-1 victory. That backed starter Vinny Nittoli, who earned his third victory of the season.

Corbin Osburn started for Wichita and things went terribly wrong for him from the start. Josh Allen led off with a line drive down the line in left and rolled into second with a double. Max Murphy followed with a base hit that put runners at the corners and Noah Perio, Jr.  gave St. Paul the lead when he drilled an Osburn offering to the wall in right-center. Brady Shoemaker hit a sacrifice fly that scored Murphy and Perio came home on an RBI single by Richard Prigatano to make it 3-0. Prigatano would be thrown out trying to steal third before Dante Bichette, Jr. walked. Kes Carter then laced a ball down into the corner in right field for a double that put runners at second and third with two down. That brought Justin O’Conner to the plate, who lined a ball over the wall in left field for his fourth homerun of the season. That made it 6-0.

Justin O’Conner: 2-5, 2-R, 2-HR (5), 4-RBI

An inning later, Perio singled with one out and moved to second on a base hit from Shoemaker. Prigatano followed with a base hit into right-center to score Perio and the lead was seven.

In the top of the third, O’Conner would hit his second home run of the game, a solo shot to extend the lead to eight. It was the team-leading fifth home run of the season for the Saints catcher.

While his team was putting up runs, St. Paul Saints starter Vinny Nittoli was shutting Wichita down. He struck out four of the first seven batters he faced, and did not allow his first hit of the game until one out in the third.

The Wingnuts seemed to have no answers for the St. Paul right-hander but, with two down in the fourth, they would finally get on the board. Former Saint Tony Thomas drilled a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left-center for his fifth home run of the season to make it 8-1.

Vinny Nittoli: W (3-1), 5-IP, 3-H, 2-BB, ER, 8-K

Wichita would get no closer. In the top of the fifth, Prigatano walked to start the inning and scored when Bichette followed with a drive into right-center that rolled to the wall for a double. An inning later, Allen walked to start the inning and scored on an RBI single by Shoemaker. That made it 10-1 which would be the final.

Nittoli (3-1) came out after 5-innings, allowing 3-hits, 2-walks, and a run. He struck out 8. Ryan Schlosser and Ryan Boelter each tossed two scoreless innings for St. Paul to finish off the game.

Justin O’Conner finished 2-5 with 2-runs, 2-homers, and 4-RBI. Richard Prigatano was 3-4 with a run and 2-RBI, and Brady Shoemaker was 2-3 with 2-RBI.

With the sweep, the St. Paul Saints finish their 10 game road trip 7-3. They now head home to begin a six-game homestand starting with the Sioux Falls Canaries on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.

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Featured Image by Ed Bailey

By Robert Pannier