St. Paul Saints Harris, DiFazio Lead Make Shift Lineup to 5-4 Victory
With injuries abounding throughout the St. Paul Saints roster, manager George Tsamis was forced to reach into his bag of tricks and put together an unusual lineup that still managed to earn the club its 22nd win of the season. Despite the alterations to the lineup, catcher Vinny DiFazio continued his torrid hot streak to aid in the 5-4 win.
For the second straight night the St. Paul Saints scored a run in the top of the first inning. With Matt Jackson on the hill for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Alonzo Harris led off with a walk. After stealing second he came home on a double by DiFazio that gave the visitors a one-run lead.
The Goldeyes responded right away, plating a run of their own in the bottom of the first inning. Brady Wilson drew a lead-off walk against Saints starter Kramer Sneed. Two batters later Sneed walked Casey Haerther and Nic Jackson grounded into a fielder’s choice that moved Wilson to third. Josh Mazzola ripped a Sneed offering into left field for a base hit to tie the score.
In the top of the second St. Paul jumped right back on top. Joey Paciorek singled with one out and moved to second on a single by Steve Nikorak, who was moved to short in place of Anthony Phillips. Two batters later, Harris delivered the first of four hits he had on the afternoon, driving Paciorek home to make it 2-1.
Harris had a huge day for the St. Paul Saints. He went 4-4 with a run, an RBI and drew a walk. He also stole two bases to give him 13, tied for tops in the American Association. The added speed that Harris brings to the St. Paul lineup was prevalent, not only in his stolen bases, but he also beat out two infield singles to keep his perfect day alive.
In the third the Saints extended their lead. DiFazio and Gac led off the inning with back-t0-back singles and Angelo Songco walked to load the bases with no one out. That brought Mike Schultz to the plate, who was making his professional debut. Schultz grounded into a double-play, but DiFazio scored on the play to make it a two-run lead.
In the fifth inning the Saints extended their lead to four. DiFazio began the inning with a single and Gac walked to put runners at first and second with no one out. Two batters later Schultz plated the first run of his professional career, driving home DiFazio on a bloop single that made it 4-1. Paciorek hit a fly ball to right field that Gac scored on and the Saints were up by four.
Sneed had pitched incredibly well after allowing the first inning run. The left-hander allowed just a hit and a walk over the next four innings, retiring 11 of the 13 batters he faced.
In the sixth the Goldeyes finally got back on the scoreboard. Sneed retired the first two batters of the inning, but Jackson drew a walk before Josh Mazzola hit his third home run of the season to pull Winnipeg to within two. That would be it for Sneed. The left-hander pitched 5.2 innings, allowing 4 hits, 4 walks and 3 earned runs.
In came right-hander Mike Zouzalik. Tsamis needed a big outing from the righty with his team so depleted, and Zouzalik was just what the doctor ordered. The reliever pitched 2.1 innings, allowing just a lone walk while striking out three. That kept the score 5-3.
In the ninth Tsamis turned to Mikey Mehlich to close it out. Jon Weber began the inning with a shot down the left field line that was just out of the reach of Mitch Elliot. The ball fell in, giving the Winnipeg Goldeyes a lead-off double. Mehlich retired the next two batters, but Ramon Ortega kept the inning alive with a single up the middle that scored Weber to make it 5-4. Wilson then popped one down the right field line that Songco feverishly chased, but it dropped just out of his reach, giving Wilson a double and putting the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position. Tsamis came out to talk to Mehlich and get him settled down. The right-hander responded, getting Heisler to ground out to end the game.
Sneed (4-1) earned the victory. Mehlich recorded his first save. Jackson (2-3) took the loss.
DiFazio had another huge day, going 4-5 with 2 runs and an RBI. His average was pushed to .426, second highest in the American Association. The catcher also extended his hitting streak to seven-games.
By Robert Pannier