Kes Carter Delivers Walk-Off Home Run in 14th to Give Extend Saints Win Streak
The Sioux City Explorers returned to St. Paul on Wednesday night, with both teams riding three-game win streaks. These two teams had already played each other nine times entering the contest, with the Explorers leading the season series 5-4. These have been tightly contested games and the mid-week battle was no different as the Saints would pull out the 5-4 victory in the 14th inning thanks to Kes Carter’s ninth home run of the season, a walk-off shot that ended the nearly five-hour marathon.
The St. Paul Saints took the lead against Kevin McCanna in the bottom of the first. Kes Carter singled with one down and moved to third on a base hit by Brady Shoemaker. Anthony Gallas then fell behind 0-2, but stayed alive by fouling off two pitches before doubling into center to score Carter. Shoemaker came home on a ground out by Nate Hanson and the Saints were ahead 2-0.
Benji Waite started for St. Paul and he was keeping the Sioux City bats at bay through the first four, but the Explorers took the lead with three-runs in the fifth. Jonathan Gonzalez got the rally started with a double into left and moved to third on a ground out. Tony Campana followed by singling into right field to score Gonzalez. He then stole second and Joe Bennie followed with a base hit that brought Campana home to tie the score at two. Tyler Ogle walked before LeVon Washington lined a single into right that scored Bennie and it was 3-2 Sioux City.
The Explorers were clinging to the one-run lead heading into the seventh, but a controversial call gave the Saints life and Shoemaker made them pay. Jon Kristoffersen led off the inning by drawing a walk. Keith Picht came on in relief and retired the next two hitters, bringing Shoemaker to the plate. Picht got ahead 0-2, but a pitch that looked like it caught the corner of the plate was ruled a ball to keep the batter alive. Shoemaker eventually worked the count full before blasting a two-run homer top put St. Paul back on top.
The lead did not last long. In the top of the eighth it looked like Washington was going to be rung up on a 2-2 pitch, but it was ruled a ball, and the next offering he blasted for his fifth homer of the year to tie the score at four.
That started the marathon. Each team’s bullpen was spectacular as Picht tossed 2.2-innings, only allowing the one run. Brad Orosey tossed 1.2-innings of scoreless relief before closer PJ Francescon took over with one out in the 11th and allowed just one-hit over the next 2.2-innings.
The Saints bullpen was even more masterful. Vinny Nittoli tossed 2 scoreless innings of relief and Chandler Hawkins tossed a perfect 10th. Brandon Peterson would go 1.1-innings before being replaced, as Ken Frosch tossed 2.2-scoreless innings, striking out 5.
After Frosch retired the side in the top of the 14th, Francescon returned for the bottom half of the inning. He did not stay on the hill for long. The first pitch he threw to Carter was drilled for his ninth home run, giving the St. Paul Saints the 5-4 walk-off victory to extend the team’s winning streak to four.
Brady Shoemaker led the Saints offense, going 2-4 with 2-runs, 2-RBI, and 2-walks. Kes Carter was 3-7 with 2-runs and an RBI. Nate Hanson had 2-hits and an RBI. Jayce Ray was 4-5 for Sioux City with 2-walks, and LeVon Washington was 2-6 with a run and 2-RBI.
These two teams will finish their two-game set today before heading to Sioux City to play a pair. The Saints send RHP Matt Schuld (0-0, 4.50) to the mound against Explorers LHP Cody Forsythe (3-6. 5.96). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier