If there is one thing we know about the St. Paul Saints, it is that they can score runs. After putting up 17 runs against the Gary Southshore RailCats, the Saints returned home for their season opener and, thanks to a 3-RBI performance by Max Murphy, downed the Chicago Dogs, 6-4. That moved the Saints to 3-1.
The Chicago Dogs looked to take the crowd out of the contest right away, scoring a run in the top of the first. Kyle Gaedele drew a walk to start the game and moved to second on a ground out. With two down, Craig Maddox grounded a base hit up the middle that scored Gaedele and it was 1-0.
That seemed to be more than enough for Dogs starter Connor Root, who was dominating the St. Paul Saints through the first four frames. He allowed just one hit. Two other hitters reached, one on an error and one on a walk, but all three runners were eliminated on double-plays, meaning Root had retired the minimum through four.
However, in the fifth, things fell apart for him. Jayce Boyd started the inning with an opposite field hit to right to get the rally started. Noah Perio, Jr. followed with a ball to the wall in left-center that he legged out for a double. That put runners at second and third with no one out. Dante Bichette, Jr. would then bring both home with a base hit into left-center and it was 2-1 Saints. Root struck out the next two batters, but Josh Allen kept the inning alive with a single. Richard Prigatano drew a walk bringing Max Murphy to the plate, who lined a ball off the wall in right field. All three runners came around to score and the St. Paul Saints led 5-1.
Chicago immediately responded with two runs in the top of the sixth. Matt Telesco drew a walk to get the rally started and advanced to second on a single by Maddox. Wilfredo Rodriguez drew a walk and the bases were loaded with no one out.
That would be it for Matt Soelter (1-0). Beck Wheeler came on and induced a double-play. Telesco scored to make it 5-2, but there were now two outs. Joe Benson was then hit by a pitch before Michael Baca singled into center to cut the deficit to two. Edwin Arroyo followed with a single off the glove of the third baseman and the bases were loaded once again. Wheeler remained calm, striking out Gaedele to end the threat, preserving the two run advantage.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Saints added an insurance run. Kes Carter started the inning by laying down a perfect bunt for a base hit. He moved to second on a sacrifice and scored when Prigatano grounded a ball up the middle for a single that scored the speedy Carter to make it 6-3.
As they had earlier in the contest, Chicago responded right away. Matt Dean singled with one out and moved to third on a single by Joe Benson. Michael Baca delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Dean to make it 6-4.
St. Paul looked like they would extend their lead back to three in the bottom of the eighth. Brady Shoemaker led off with a double and Noah Perio followed with a bloop single into center. Shoemaker was waved home but Gaedele’s throw home was a perfect one to nail the runner.
In the top of the ninth, Tom Wilhelmsen came on looking to close out the contest. He had struggled in his first two outings and it did not start off well when Gaedele greeted the closer with a leadoff double. However, the veteran proved why he was a Major Leaguer, retiring the next three batters for his first save of the season.
After the contest, St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis praised the performance of his starting pitcher. “He looked really good out there. He kind of lost some gas in the sixth, but pitched really well.”
Max Murphy finished 2-4 with 3-RBI. Noah Perio continues his hot start, going 3-4 with a run. Craig Maddox was 2-5 with a run and an RBI in the loss.
These two teams continue their three game set tomorrow. The St. Paul Saints will sent Vinny Nittoli to the hill against left-hander Tommy Thorpe. First pitch is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier