Robert Coe Cages the Saltdogs in 7-1 St. Paul Saints Victory
Robert Coe is back. After struggling in 2014 with injuries and inconsistencies, the right-hander is back into his 2012 form, throwing strikes and making big pitches to lead the St. Paul Saints to victory. Thursday night he did just that, tossing a two-hit complete game as his team downed the Lincoln Saltdogs 7-1.
The St. Paul Saints starter found himself staked to a lead early, as his offense gave him a 3-o lead just two frames into the contest. In the bottom of the first Willie Argo singled with one out and moved to second on his 19th stolen base of the season. Two batters later Ian Gac, returning to the lineup for the first time in nearly a week, singled into right center field, scoring Argo to make it 1-0.
In the bottom of the second the red-hot Joey Paciorek doubled into left field with one out. That gave Paciorek at least one hit in eight of his last nine games. Anthony Phillips drew a walk off Lincoln Saltdogs starter Zach Varce, and Dan Kaczrowski walked to load that bases. That brought Alonzo Harris to the plate. He took a 2-2 offering from Varce and lined it into left field, scoring both Phillips and Paciorek, and it was 3-0.
That was plenty enough for Coe on this night. The right-hander was simply devastating, mixing his pitches, and dominating hitters with his fast ball. Coe allowed a first inning single with one out, then simply got on a roll.
He retired the next four hitters before walking Brian Joynt and Mike Gilmartin with two outs in the second. Coe then made an excellent pitch that forced a ground ball by Steven Tinoco that ended the inning. That ground out started a streak of 10 straight batters that Coe retired. He struck out four during that span.
In the sixth, Aaron Payne led off with a walk, but Coe seemed completely unfazed, retiring the next three hitters to retire the side. Joynt drew his second walk of the game with two outs in the seventh, but another ground ball left the runner stranded. In the eighth he retired the Lincoln Saltdogs 1-2-3 to set up the ninth inning to see if he could be the first St. Paul Saints pitcher to toss a 1-hitter in over a year.
Prior to that point, his team extended his lead with four more runs in the fifth. Angelo Songco began the inning by drilling a ball to the wall in center field and then hustling in for a stand up triple. Mike Kvasnicka followed with a deep fly ball to right field that scored Songco to make it a four-run lead. With one out, Paciorek ripped a double into right-center field, and came around to score when Phillips lined a single up the middle. Kaczrowski followed with a walk and Harris came up big again, lining a single to center that scored Phillips.
Manager Ken Oberkfell had seen enough at that point. Zach Westcott relieved and struck out the first hitter he faced for the second out of the inning. Vinny DiFazio kept the inning alive, however, lining a single into left field that scored Kaczrowski to make it 7-0.
With a huge lead it all came down to the ninth inning to see if Coe could maintain the one-hit shutout. Eric Young drew a five-pitch walk to begin the inning. Coe then got Mitch Canham and Curt Smith to hit fly balls to right field that Kvasnicka made nice plays on in each case for outs. Next up was Jeremy Hamilton, who drew a five-pitch walk and it was starting to get a bit interesting. Joynt then grounded a ball to Phillips at short, who attempted to back-hand it, but was not able to make the play. The hit went down as a single and the bases were loaded. With Gilmartin at the plate, Coe threw a wild pitch, scoring Young to make it 7-1. Coe then got Gilmartin to fly to Kvasnicka to end the game.
The shutout was ruined, but Coe pitched an amazing game. He allowed just 2 hits, walked 6 and struck out 5. The one run against him was earned in the complete game victory. Coe (6-2) tossed his first complete game of the season, and lowered his ERA to 3.28. It was a very impressive outing.
Harris had a big night at the plate for the St. Paul Saints. He finished 2-5 with 3 RBI. DiFazio, Argo, Songco and Paciorek each had 2 hits apiece, and Paciorek and Phillips both scored two runs.
By Robert Pannier