They say that turnabout is fair play, and that proved to be the case Sunday evening as the St. Paul Saints responded from their worst pitching outing of the season to crush the Texas AirHogs, 13-2. A night after giving up a season high 20 hits in a 14-9 loss, the pitching staff held Texas to just two runs, while the AirHogs pitching staff gave up 15 hits and eight walks in the loss. Max Murphy and Burt Reynolds each hit a home run and drove in three.
The St. Paul Saints took a commanding lead in the bottom of the first. Max Murphy started the frame with a base hit and moved to second on a walk to Kyle Barrett. Burt Reynolds then hit a ground ball to third. The third baseman tagged third and threw to second for what should have been the second out, but the second baseman let it bounce out of his glove and into center field. Both Barrett and Reynolds moved into scoring position, and Barrett came home when Brady Shoemaker followed with a single into center. Zach Walters followed with a sacrifice fly that brought home Reynolds to make it a 2-0 lead. Walks to Dante Bichette, Jr. and Matt Snyder loaded the bases and Anthony Phillips drew a base on balls to drive home Shoemaker. With the bases still loaded, Aaron Gretz drilled a double down the line in right that brought home two more to give the Saints a 5-0 lead.
An inning later, St. Paul extended their lead to seven. Barrett led off with a double and Reynolds followed with his 15th homer of the year, a mammoth shot that went about 440 feet. It was his 11th home run since joining the Saints.
Matt Solter had allowed three hits through the first two frames, and had even loaded the bases in the second, but had not been scored upon. That came to an end in the third, when the Texas AirHogs would finally get on the board. Chu Fujia led off with a double, but Solter was able to strike out the next two batters. It looked like it would be another scoreless frame for the visitors, but Stewart Ijames delivered a clutch two out hit to right-center, bringing home Chu to make it 7-1.
The Saints responded right away in the bottom of the inning. Phillips and Gretz drew back-to-back walks with one down and both scored when Max Murphy blasted a three-run homer to left, his second of the season.
It would remain 10-1 until the fifth, when the St. Paul Saints would extend their lead. Phillips singled to start the frame and moved to second on a wild pitch. He reached third on a single by Murphy but a strike out would make it two on with two down. Reynolds and Shoemaker followed with back-to-back RBI singles to make it a 12-1 game.
The Saints were not done putting up the runs. Snyder laced a double to left-center to begin the sixth and, two batters later, Gretz walked. A base hit to center by Barrett brought home Snyder to make it 13-1.
The AirHogs would finally cut into that lead with a run in the seventh. Solter retired the first two batters of the inning, but Correlle Prime beat out a ground ball to short for a base hit and moved to second on an error on the throw. A double by Ijames brought Prime home to make it an 11-run deficit. The AirHogs would get no closer.
Solter (2-4) earned his first victory since the opening series of the season, going 7-innings, allowing 10-hits and one earned run. He walked 2 and struck out 5.
The Saints were led by Max Murphy and Burt Reynolds. Murphy was 3-4 with 2-runs and 3-RBI and Reynolds was 2-5 with 2-runs scored and 3-RBI. Brady Shoemaker was 2-3 with a run and 2-RBI as was Aaron Gretz. Texas was led by Stewart Ijames, who was 2-4 with 2-RBI.
The victory keeps the St. Paul Saints a half game behind the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks for second place in the North Division. Those two teams start a four-game series in Fargo starting Monday night. Eddie Medina (5-3, 2.55) will go for St. Paul. First pitch is 7:02.
By Robert Pannier