Mike Kvasnicka Saves St. Paul Saints in Dramatic 10-9 Victory
Everything was rolling the St. Paul Saints way Friday night, as the club jumped out to a 9-1 lead over the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. It looked like it was a complete improbability that the home team was coming back in this one, especially with American Association wins and ERA leader Dustin Crenshaw on the hill for the Saints, but the RedHawks made an improbable comeback, only to see in fall short in extra innings.
The RedHawks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Frank Salerno led off with a double and, after stealing third, came around to score on a single by Charlie Valerio. Fargo-Moorhead had won the previous night’s game 1-0, so they had to be feeling pretty good about their chances in this contest as well.
The one-run lead was not going to hold on this night however, as Mike Kvasnicka homered off Joe Harris to tie the score. For Kvasnicka it was his second home run of the season.
In the top of the third the Saints completely blew it open. Anthony Phillips led off with a single and moved to second on a ground out. Mitch Elliot’s double brought home Phillips, but Steve Nikorak followed by grounding out for the second out of the inning. Harris had struggled in the inning, but he was just one out away from leaving with just one run scored.
The vision of the inning coming to an end were dashed when Vinny DiFazio reached on a fielder’s choice and Ian Gac walked. That loaded the bases for Angelo Songco, who doubled over the right field fence for a ground rule double, scoring two runs. Kvasnicka was the next batter, and he absolutely crushed a Harris offering for a three-run home run and an 8-1 Saints lead.
In the top of the fifth Harris retired the first two batters of the inning, but Angelo Songco delivered his sixth home run of the season to make it 9-1. That also moved his RBI total to 34, one behind American Association leader Brock Kjeldgaard.
After allowing the first inning run Crenshaw was simply lights out. He allowed just two hits over the next four innings and was just one batter over the minimum during that span. This game had the look and feel like it was over, but that was not how the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks saw it.
In the bottom of the sixth they got five of those runs back. Back-to-back singles by Chad Mozingo and Joe Staley put two on with one out, and Joe Dunigan followed with a double that scored Mozingo. The Saints followed with two critical errors that allowed Staley and Dunigan to score, and put Drew Muren at first. Frazier Hall came to the plate and drilled his first home run the year to cut the lead to three. Momentum had clearly changed directions.
In the seventh F-M added another run when Dunigan drove home Mozingo for the second time in the game to make it 9-7. One inning later the amazing comeback continued as Drew Muren scored on a sacrifice fly by Charlie Valerio and Mozingo doubled to bring home Hall. That made it 9-9 in this improbable comeback.
Neither team scored in the ninth sending the game extra innings with the Farg0-Moorhead RedHawks clearly having the momentum on their side. That may have been true, but the one thing that the home team did not have was Mike Kvasnicka.
The St. Paul Saints designated hitter stepped to the plate to lead off the 1oth inning and blasted his third home run of the game to make it 10-9. For Kvasnicka he finished 4-5 with 3 runs and 5 RBI. His RBI total is the second biggest total in his professional career. He also set a franchise record for most total bases in a game with 13, and tied the record for most homer runs with three.
Ryan Rodebaugh (2-2) had come on for St. Paul in the ninth, and continued into the 1oth. He pitched beautifully, retiring the side in order in the bottom half of the inning to preserve the win.
Angelo Songco also had a huge night for the Saints. Songco finished 2-4 with 2 runs and 3 RBI. The RedHawks got three hits from both Mozingo and Dunigan.
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By Robert Pannier