Kramer Sneed Shuts Down Explorers, St. Paul Saints Draw First Blood, 2-0
The two best teams in the American Association entered CHS Field on a rainy night in St. Paul tied with identical 61-19 records. The St. Paul Saints have been the league’s best team all season, but the red hot Sioux City Explorers have ridden a 19-1 run to jump into the first place tie. This set up the “Gun Fight at the OK Corral,” or on Star Wars Night should we say “Light Sabers at the Planet Hoth.”
This was going to be an incredible pitchers’ duel that saw Saints 12-game winner Kramer Sneed faced against Ryan Strufing for the Explorers. Sneed entered the contest on a three-game winning streak, where he had allowed just three runs in 20.2 innings pitched. Strufing had posted a 2.25 ERA in three appearances since joining Sioux City, and had allowed five runs in his 18 innings pitched with the club. This had all the earmarks that a lot of scoring was not going to occur, and that is exactly what happened.
For the first six innings neither team was able to generate much offense. Each team did had their opportunities however. In the bottom of the third Dan Kaczrowski singled with one out, and moved to third on a double by Alonzo Harris. Willie Argo was intentionally walked bringing up the incredibly dangerous Vinny DiFazio. DiFazio lined a hard grounder up the middle, but Ryan Court made a great play at second to turn it into a double-play to end the threat.
In the top half of the fourth it looked like the Explorers would take the lead against Sneed. Brock Kjeldgaard walked with one out and moved to second on a base hit by Noah Perio. Ryan Court’s single loaded the bases with one out. Next up came Tommy Mendonca, who fell behind 1-2, before fouling off three straight pitches and eventually working the count to 2-2. It was a brilliant performance at the plate by Mendonca’s but not more amazing than Sneed’s, who struck him out for the second out of the inning. Rene Tosoni then fouled out to Angelo Songco and the Saints starter had escaped unscathed.
In the seventh the Saints finally were able to break through. Mike Kvasnicka led off the inning by drawing a walk. Newcomer Nate Hanson followed with a walk as well, and that was it for Strufing. He had pitched beautifully, allowing 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 4. He had allowed no runs in his 6-plus innings pitched, but two runners were his.
In came Billy Bullock who went to a full count on Joey Paciorek before walking him. That loaded the bases with no one out. Bullock then struck out Anthony Phillips and got Kaczrowski to fly out to shallow right field, and it looked like Bullock was going to escape like Houdini, but he hit Alonzo Harris to drive in a run and give the St. Paul Saints the lead.
In the bottom of the eighth the home club added an insurance run. Songco singled with one out and moved to third on a single by Kvasnicka. With Paciorek at the plate, Bullock uncorked a wild pitch that scored Songco and it was 2-0.
That was all the run support Sneed needed. He went 8 incredible innings, allowing 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 3. It was the left-hander’s 13th win of the year, tying him with teammate Dustin Crenshaw for the American Association lead. He also dropped his ERA to 2.73, fifth best in the league.
In the ninth Ryan Rodebaugh came on to close it out. The Saints closer has been on fire of late. Rodebaugh struck out two of the three batters he faced to record his league leading 22nd save of the season. It was his 11th straight save conversion.
These two teams will continue their series tomorrow with an early matinee contest. Game time is 12:05.
By Robert Pannier