St. Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Canaries Split Double-Header
The St. Paul Saints have been a dynamo early in the 2015 American Association season. Coming into Friday night’s double-header against the Sioux Falls Canaries, the Saints were an amazing 17-2. One of those two loses came against Friday night’s opponent, and on this night the Canaries proved that they are not even remotely intimidated by the success of the Minnesota team early on.
The Sioux Falls Canaries set three marks Friday night. In Game 1, they became the first team to beat the Saints twice this season, the first to shut them out, and the first to beat starter Dustin Crenshaw. Those are really impressive marks no matter how you slice it.
The opening game pitted Crenshaw against Sioux Falls starter Stephen Bougher. The Canaries starter was making his first appearance of the season, and he made quite a name for himself right off.
It was a scoreless tie through the first four innings of the game. Bougher allowed a single in each of the first three innings before retiring the Saints in order in the fourth.
Crenshaw had retired the minimum batters in his last start, a two-hit shutout over the Sioux Falls Canaries six days ago. In the first two innings of this contest he retired the Sioux Falls Canaries in order. In the third he gave up three straight singles to begin the inning. The third hit sent Tyler Shover heading to the plate to score, but St. Paul Saints right fielder Mike Kvasnicka fired a perfect strike to the plate to gun down Shover and keep the game scoreless. A hit by pitch loaded the bases, but Crenshaw struck out Jason Repko before retiring Brian Humphries on a ground out to end the threat.
In the fifth, St. Paul threatened. Angelo Songco led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. A single by Steve Nikorak moved Songco to third, but the Sioux Falls starter struck out Anthony Phillips, then got Alonzo Harris to ground out to keep the game scoreless.
Crenshaw would not have as much success in the bottom of the fifth. With one out RJ Perucki singled bringing Harrison Kain to the plate. Kain took the first pitch he saw from the Saints starter and ripped it over the wall for a two-run homer. That broke a string of 20 straight scoreless innings that Crenshaw had thrown, a span that stretched three starts.
In the sixth the Sioux Falls Canaries added another run. Richard Stock singled with one out, and Vickash Ramjit pinch ran for Stock and stole second to put a runner in scoring position with one out. Two batters later Shover doubled, sending Ramjit home to extend the lead to three.
That was plenty enough support for Bougher (1-0), who allowed 6 hits in 6 innings of work. He also struck out 5. Chase Johnson came on to pitch the final inning, retiring the Saints in order for his fifth save of the season. Johnson has allowed just five baserunners in nine appearances this season. Crenshaw (4-1) took the loss.
The St. Paul Saints rebounded in Game 2, staking starter Kramer Sneed to a five run lead in the second inning on their way to a 6-2 victory. Vinny DiFazio continued his hot start, hitting his third home run of the season, and adding two hits in four trips to the plate in the win.
Jeremy Strawn, Sioux Falls starter in their 6-2 victory over the Saints last Sunday, was the starter. He retired the visitors in order in the first, but Ian Gac led off the second with his 15th double of the season. Kvasnicka followed with a single, scoring Gac and staking the Saints to a 1-0 lead. Songco singled moving Kvasnicka to second, and DiFazio followed with a towering drive to left-center field for a home run. The three-run home run gives the St. Paul catcher 15 RBI, tied for 10th in the American Association.
Strawn was able to retire the next two hitters, bringing Alonzo Harris to the plate. He took the first two pitches before hitting his second home run of the year to move the lead to five.
Sneed retired the Sioux Falls Canaries in order through the first three innings, but then gave up single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth Ramjit singled to begin the fame. After stealing second he was knocked in on a Stock single to make it 5-1. In the fifth, Humphries homered on the first pitch the St. Paul starter threw to make it 5-2. It was Humphries’ second home run of the season.
In the sixth the St. Paul Saints extended their lead back to four. Nathan Stewart relieved and walked Steve Nikorak to start the sixth. A sacrifice moved Nikorak to second and he scored on a double by Harris to make it 6-2, which was the final of the game.
Sneed (3-1) went 6 innings, allowing 5 hits and 2 runs. He also struck out 2. Strawn (2-2) took the loss for Sioux Falls.
By Robert Pannier