Robert Coe, John Straka Lead Saints Double-Header Sweep
The St. Paul Saints have been looking for some consistency out of their starting rotation, and that is exactly what they has gotten the last two nights, as Robert Coe gained the victory in Tuesday’s suspended game and John Straka pitched a gem in the regularly scheduled contest Wednesday for the sweep. The two victories moved the Saints to 32-15, 7.5 ahead of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
The first game was a continuation of last night’s contest that was suspended after a long rain delay. All of the scoring actually occurred Tuesday night, and for the Saints it all occurred in the first inning. Alex De La Cruz started for Joplin and found himself in trouble from the very start.
Alonzo Harris singled to start the frame and moved to second on a single by Brady Burzynski. Nate Hanson then walked to load the bases and there was no one out. Next up was Angelo Songco, who lofted a fly ball to left field that scored Harris and it was 1-0. A single by Tony Thomas reloaded the bases and Willie Argo followed with a single into left field that plated two, extending the lead to three. Following a walk to Tony Caldwell, Aaron Gretz hit a sacrifice fly to score Thomas. The St. Paul Saints would score 4-runs on 4-hits in the inning to grab the lead.
In the top of the second, the Blasters got two of those runs back. Coe retired the first batter of the inning, but Geraldo Valentin singled to get the rally started. Juan Medina followed with a single and Sergio Leon walked to load the bases. Coe struck out KC Huth, but Oscar Mesa would cut the deficit in half with a double that scored two to make it 4-2.
It would stay that way until the top of the fourth, when Joplin made in a one-run game. Coe retired Medina to start the frame, but Sergio Leon took him deep to left-center for his second homer of the year. That made the score 4-3.
The game reached into the sixth with the Saints clinging to the one-run lead. That was when the game was suspended due to American Association rules that do not allow an inning to start after midnight.
The day would be done for Robert Coe (6-1). He had pitched a gem, going all 6-innings, allowing 8-hits, 3-walks, and 3-earned runs. He struck out 5.
Resuming the next day, it was a battle of bullpens. Caleb Thielbar took over for Coe and he was spectacular. He would throw two innings, only allowing a walk.
Roby Romero came on in the fifth Tuesday night, and continued when play resumed. He allowed just 2-hits over his 3-innings of work, allowing no runs.
In the ninth, Manager George Tsamis turned to Ryan Rodebaugh. He pitched a perfect inning, striking out two for his 12th save of the season.
Burzynski had a huge game for the Saints, going 3-5 with a run. Argo drove in two, and both Thomas and Harris had 2-hits apiece.
In the regularly scheduled contest, John Straka provided the outing his manager had been looking for since acquiring the right-hander. Straka dominated, allowing just 6-hits and 2-runs to lead the victory.
The Saints starter breezed through the first three innings, allowing a lone single and a walk. Meanwhile, his team would give him the lead in the second. Songco led off with the single. On a fly ball to deep center he made a head’s up play to tag and get to second. Two batters later Caldwell singled. Because Songco he taken that extra base, he scored easily to give St. Paul a 1-0 lead.
In the third, they would plate another run. Harris singled with one out and moved to second on a walk to Almadova. Hanson would reach on a fielder’s choice, putting runners at the corners with two outs. That brought Songco to the plate, who delivered a clutch single just out of the reach of the second baseman to score Harris and increase the lead to two.
In the top of the fourth, the Joplin Blasters tied the score. Valentin singled to start it off and Charlie Valerio followed with a huge homerun to center field. It was his fourth homer of the season.
The score was tied but it would not stay that way for long. In the bottom of the fourth, Caldwell reached on a walk, but De La Cruz retired the next two batters. It looked like the inning would end without any damage, even after Caldwell moved to second on a wild pitch. However, Harris delivered a big two-hit to score Caldwell and give the Saints back the lead at 3-2.
From there it was very much like the first game – the two pitching staffs dominated. The Blasters allowed just one-hit over the next four-innings. The Saints starter continued to pitch incredibly well, only being removed after giving up a one-out walk in the eighth. Straka (6-2) went 7.1-innings, allowed 2-hits, 2-walks, and 2-earned runs. He struck out 6 in his best outing of the season.
Benji Waite finished out the eighth by retiring both batters he faced. In the ninth, Rodebaugh came on again. The right-hander allowed a lead-off single but then retired the next three hitters in order to end the game. That was the closer’s 13th save.
Harris had a great day at the plate, going 3-4 with a run and an RBI. Songco added 2-hits in four trips to the plate, with an RBI and a run.
After the game, Tsamis had nothing but praise for his starter. “He only had one pitch that went out and the pitch was down. You got to give credit to their hitter. He had good stuff, good fastball, good off-speed. A real quality start. When you get quality starts like that you are going to win games.
Following the sweep of the Blasters, the Saints now move on to play the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks for four games. Game 1 of the series is tomorrow night at 7:05. Eric Veglahn (0-2, 6.75) will go for the Saints.
By Robert Pannier