Michael Lang, Nate Samson Deliver Clutch Hits to Give Explorers 4-1 Win
The St. Paul Saints have had great success against virtually every team in the American Association this season, but have not seemed to have the winning formula against the Sioux City Explorers. That proved to be the case Wednesday night, as the Explorers won a great pitching battle, 4-1. Sioux City scored all their runs in the fifth, thanks to a 2-run double by Michael Lang and a 2-run single by Nate Samson, and PJ Francescon saved his 11th game of the year.
Benji Waite and Kurt Heyer kept this a scoreless contest through the first four-innings but, in the fifth, both teams would get on the board. In the top half of the inning, Jon Kristoffersen led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice. Heyer struck out Ben Buerkle for the second out of the inning and it looked like the Saints would come away empty-handed, but Nate Hanson walked to keep the inning going and Brady Shoemaker followed with a base hit that scored Kristofffersen to make it 1-0 St. Paul.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Explorers responded and took the lead. LeVon Washington reached on an error to start the inning and two batters later Josh Vitters reached on an error to put two on with just one down. Waite retired Dre Gleason before Tony Campana was intentionally walked. That brought Michael Lang to the plate, who drilled the first pitch he saw for a double that scored both Washington and Vitters to make it 2-1. Nate Samson followed with a single up the middle that scored Lang and Campana and Sioux City was on top, 4-1.
The Saints looked to get some of those runs back in the top of the sixth when Kes Carter tripled with one out before Maxx Garrett walked. With runners at the corners and one out, Heyer induced Kristoffersen to hit into a double-play and the Saints would not threaten again.
In the ninth, PJ Francescon came into relieve and gave up a lead-off single to Carter. However, he then struck out Garrett and Kristoffersen, before getting Brady Burzynski to ground out to end the game. That was his 11th save of the season.
Nate Samson finished the evening 2-4 with 2-RBI for Sioux City. Michael Lang also drove in 2-runs. Kurt Heyer earned the victory (3-4). The Saints offense was led by Kes Carter, who was a perfect 4-4 on the night.
The Saints head to Fargo-Moorhead to begin a three-game series against the RedHawks Thursday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier