It doesn’t seem like very long ago when the St. Paul Saints were in complete command of the North Division in the American Association. It doesn’t seem like long ago because it was just six-days ago. However, after dropping four out of five to the Winnipeg Goldeyes the Saints have now dropped the first two to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, including Saturday night when they fell 4-3. That gave St. Paul a 3-7 record over their last 10.
The suddenly struggling Mark Hamburger started for the Saints. He was opposed by Brian Ernst and both starters gave up a run in the first inning. In the top of the first, Alonzo Harris led off with a single and moved to second on a ground out. Tony Thomas was then hit by a pitch and Dan Johnson followed with a single to load the bases. Nate Hanson then grounded out, scoring Harris to make it 1-0.
The RedHawks came right back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Kes Carter singled to get it started and Ryan Pineda was then hit by a pitch. Keury De La Cruz was the next batter, and he lined a base hit that scored Carter to tie the game at one.
Both pitchers responded with scoreless second innings, but in the third Fargo-Moorhead would take the lead. Hamburger retired the first two batters of the inning, but K.D. Land put the RedHawks on top when he drilled his 14th homerun of the season to make it 2-1. Dustin Geiger and Brian Humphries followed with back-to-back singles, and Charlie Valerio brought both runners home with a double to center. That made it 4-1.
From there, Ernst was in command of this game. With a lead he controlled the potent Saints offense allowing just two-hits over the next four innings.
In the sixth, St. Paul would pull within two. Ernst struck out the first two batters of the inning, and had Trever Adams behind 0-2. However, he tried to nibble too much, throwing the next three pitches for balls and Adams made him pay. With the count full, the St. Paul left fielder connected for his seventh homerun of the season to make it 4-2.
Ernst was unfazed, continuing to control the game before finally being taken out with two outs in the eighth. The Saints had looked like they were going to pull within one when Vinny DiFazio drilled a double down the line in left. Nate Hanson rounded third looking to score, but a perfect relay nailed him to keep it a two-run game. After an intentional walk, the night was over for the RedHawks starter.
Ernst (3-3) tossed 7.2-innings, allowing 7-hits, 5-walks, and 2-earned runs. He struck out 3. Will Mathis retired Tony Caldwell for the final out in the eighth.
In the ninth Colton Reavis came on looking to close it out. The Saints would rally however. Harris singled with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch. A ground out moved him to third and Thomas followed with a double that scored Harris and put the tying run 180-feet away. Johnson had had some big hits for St. Paul this season, but he flew out to end the game, giving the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks the 4-3 victory. Reavis earned his ninth save.
Four RedHawks players had two-hits in the game. Valerio was 2-3 with 2-RBI. Harris was 3-4 for the Saints, raising his average back above .300. He also scored twice.
The final contest of this three-game set is tomorrow afternoon at 1:00. The Saints will face Jose Almarante (3-1, 2.35).
By Robert Pannier