It looked like this one might get away from the Gary Southshore RailCats. They were leading the St. Paul Sainst 5-3 in the ninth, but a tough call by the umpire and two huge errors allowed the home team to come back and tie the game, sending it to extra-innings. In the 11th inning, the RailCats took advantage of a Saints error and the new international rule, winning 7-5.
The St. Paul Saints do what they seemingly do almost every night – score in the first inning, but it was a bitter-sweet moment. Alonzo Harris laid down a perfect bunt that he beat out, but Andy Roberts attempt to throw out Harris sailed over the first baseman’s head, allowing the Saints center field to reach second base.
That is where tragedy struck. As Harris rolled into second he stepped on the bag wrong and immediately fell to the ground in pain. He had to be helped from the field, but the problem was that manager George Tsamis had no other position player available. With Willie Argo and Sam Maus nursing injuries as well, Tsamis’ only option was to turn to his pitching staff, so reliever Chris Peacock took over for Harris on the base paths and finished the game in right field.
In the top of the second Gary tied the game against Saints starter Robert Coe. With two outs Jaime Del Valle walked and moved to third on a single by Michael Schroeder. Ryan Brockett followed with a single that brought Del Valle home to tie the game.
In the top of the third the Gary Southshore RailCats plated three to take a 4-1 lead. Zac Mitchell singled and moved to second on a walk by Drew Martinez. Both runners moved up on a stolen base with Mitchell coming home on a throwing error. A single by Pulfer scored Martinez and it was a two-run lead for Gary. Stephen Rogers followed with a single and Pulfer scored when Del Valle doubled.
In the bottom of the third the St. Paul Saints used the long ball to get back into the game. Vinny DiFazio began the inning with his sixth home run, a ball that barely cleared the wall in left-center field. Two batters, later Angelo Songco crushed a Roberts offering to make it 4-3. It was his fifth home run of the season.
In the sixth Coe allowed one more run. Schroeder walked with one out and stole second. Roger Bernal’s single brought Brockett home for the 5-3 lead. That was Coe’s last pitch.
Neither team was able to score over the next two innings, and so the RailCats took the 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Gary had gotten three great innings out of the bullpen and needed one more from Andy Loomis to close it out, but his defense let him down, and allowed St. Paul to tie the game.
Mitch Elliot led off by hitting a grounder that looked like he was out, but the umpire ruled him safe. DiFazio followed by hitting a sharp grounder to short that had double-play written all over it, but the shortstop lost the handle on the ball, and it rolled away, allowing both runners to reach. Two batters later Songco hit a hard grounder to first, but it was booted as well, allowing Elliot to score and DiFazio to move to third. A sacrifice fly by Mike Schultz brought DiFazio home and tied the game.
That sent the game to extra innings. Neither team was able to score in the 1oth, and so the game moved to the 11th under the new international rule. Rogers began at second base. Tillman Pugh attempted to lay down a bunt but the throw by the Saints first baseman went wild allowing Rogers to score and Pugh to move to second. Del Valle was up next and he laid down a bunt that died a few feet in front of home plate. DiFazio leapt out from behind the plate and threw to third to try to get Pugh, but his throw was not in time, and both runners were safe. Schroeder followed with a single that scored Pugh and two batters later Bernal brought Del Valle home on a sacrifice fly.
Up 8-5, Paul Mittura (1-0)retired the Saints in order in the bottom of the 11th. That gave the Gary Southshore RailCats a split of the first two games of the series.
By Robert Pannier