Late St. Paul Saints Rally Makes Jeff Shields League’s 1st 5 Game Winner
In the final game of their four-game series with the Sioux Falls Canaries, the St. Paul Saints sent right-hander Jeff Shields to the hill looking for his fifth win of the season. The righty has been dominant this season, giving the club a quality start in each of his previous four starts. The Saints starter delivered one of his most complete appearances of the season, which was greatly needed as Canaries starter Shawn Blackwell battled Shields pitch for pitch for the first six innings of the game.
The St. Paul Saints jumped out in front in the top of the first against Blackwell. Alonzo Harris walked, but was erased on the base path on a fielder’s choice by Mitch Elliot. Willie Argo then hit into a fielder’s choice that put the Saints left fielder on first. After Argo stole second, Ian Gac singled, sending Argo home and giving St. Paul the 1-0 lead.
From there Blackwell kept the powerful Saints lineup at bay. The Canaries starter retired 15 of the next 18 batters he faced, yielding only two singles and a walk.
Shields allowed two hits and a walk through the first three innings, but he had kept Sioux Falls off the scoreboard. In the fourth the home team finally tied the score. A single by Brian Humphries began the inning and he moved to second on a sacrifice. Two batters later Michael Wing drove the runner home to tie the game.
In the seventh the St. Paul Saints retook the lead. Vince DiFazio singled to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice by Joey Paciorek. Two batters later, short stop Anthony Phillips reached on an error that scored DiFazio to make it 2-1.
The lead was short-lived, as the Sioux Falls Canaries got two runs in the bottom of the seventh off Shields. With one out, Wing singled. Jason Repko hit into a fielder’s choice and RJ Perucki followed with his first home run of the season to make it 3-2.
Down by a run Argo opened the eighth with his fourth home run of the season. Three batters later DiFazio put the St. Paul Saints back on top with his fourth homer of the year. That made it 4-3.
In the ninth Angelo Songco added an insurance run for the visitors. Elliot singled with one out. Two batters later Gac walked to put runners at first and second with two outs. Songco fouled off two pitches to stay alive before doubling to bring home Elliot and make it 5-3.
Ryan Rodebaugh took over in the bottom of the ninth for St. Paul. He issued a walk to begin the inning, but then retired the next three batters in order to record his sixth save of the season.
Shields (5-0) earned the victory, going 7 innings, allowing 7 hits, a walk and 3 earned runs. He struck out 3 in his 91 pitch appearance. Cameron McVey (0-1) took the loss. Both Argo and DiFazio were 2-5 with 2 runs, an RBI and a home run for the St. Paul Saints. Wing had three hits for the Canaries.
By Robert Pannier