The St. Paul Saints looked to regain their place atop the North Division as they faced the Gary Southshore RailCats in the closing contest of their four-game series. St. Paul would take an early 8-0 lead behind three RBI by Kyle Barrett, then hold off the RailCats on their way to a 9-5 victory. The victory tied them with Gary Southshore for first in the last contest between these two teams this season.
This was expected to be a high-scoring affair as both Gary Southshore starter Alex Gunn and St. Paul starter Jake Matthys entered the contest struggling of late. After the RailCats were held off the board in the top of the first, the Saints would grab the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Gunn retired the first two batters, but Burt Reynolds and Brady Shoemaker kept the inning alive with back to back singles. Zach Walters followed with a single into right field that brought home Reynolds and Shoemaker scored on an RBI single by Dante Bichette, Jr. to give St. Paul the early 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, the St. Paul Saints would extend their lead to three. Justin O’Conner led off the inning with a double and scored when Kyle Barrett delivered a clutch two-out double to make it 3-0.
In the fourth, St. Paul would add two more runs. Back to back walks to Joey Wong and Max Murphy started the inning before Barrett singled to load the bases. That would be it for Gunn as Lars Liguori came on. He gave up a two run single to Reynolds to put St. Paul up by five.
An inning later it looked like the Saints had blown this game open. Liguori retired the first two batters of the inning but, once again, the two-out rally came back to haunt the RailCats. O’Conner doubled before Wong walked. Murphy delivered an RBI single into center that scored O’Conner and Barrett followed with a two run double to the wall and left that put the Saints up by eight.
This game looked like it was over as Jake Matthys (6-7) was dominating through the first five innings, allowing just three hits. However, in the sixth, the Gary Southshore RailCats would begin to put together a rally. Will Savage walked to start the inning before Ronnie Mitchell singled. Two batters later, Randy Santiesteban singled to load the bases before Colin Willis walked to drive home Savage and get the RailCats on the board.
That would be it for Matthys, as Andrew Thome came on. He walked Tillman Pugh to drive home Mitchell. Andy Paz singled to drive home Santiesteban and Willis scored on a sacrifice fly by Reggie Wilson that cut the St. Paul lead in half and it was a whole new ballgame.
The Saints would respond with a run of the bottom of the sixth. With one down, Bichette singled and moved to second on an error. Wong delivered a two run single that brought home Bichette to extend the lead back to five.
Gary Southshore would get that run right back in the top of the seventh. Beck Wheeler came on for St. Paul and retired the first two batters, but Garrett Copeland drilled an 0-1 pitch over the wall in right-center to make it a 9-5 game.
That is as close as the RailCats would get. Wheeler tossed 1.2 innings of relief before Ken Frosch came on to retire the final batter in the eighth. Zach Jones then took over, retiring the side in order in the ninth to preserve the four run victory.
Kyle Barrett finished 3-5 with 3-RBI to lead the St. Paul Saints offense. Justin O’Conner was 3-5 with 2-runs scored and Burt Reynolds finished 2-4 with a run and 2-RBI. Randy Santiesteban lead the Gary Southshore offense, going 2-4 with a run scored.
The St. Paul Saints, tied for first place in the North, will welcome the Sioux Falls Canaries to town to start a four-game series on Monday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier