It had been seven seasons since the St. Paul Saints had reached the American Association championship series. One of the longest droughts in the league. However, that drought came to an end on Saturday night as Trevor Foss combined with three relievers to blank the Gary Southshore RailCats 1-0, helping St. Paul to win the series 3-1 and advance. Burt Reynolds drove in the only run of the game and Zack Jones closed out the contest for his first save of the series.
Both the starting pitchers were in complete command of this game. Austin Wright started for Gary Southshore and gave up just three hits through the first four innings. His only real challenge came in the third when Joey Wong walked with one down and Max Murphy followed with a base hit. A ground ball moved both runners into scoring position before Burt Reynolds walked to load the bases. However, Wright got Brady Shoemaker to ground to second to end the threat.
Trevor Foss was equally as brilliant. The right-hander retired the first seven batters he faced in the game, seeing that streak come to an end when Andy DeJesus walked with one out in the third. The inning became a little hairy when D.K. Carey singled with two down, but Foss got Alex Crosby to fly out to end the inning.
In the fifth, the St. Paul Saints would finally get on the board. Jorge De Leon came on for the RailCats and retired the first two batters of the frame, however, Kyle Barrett reached on catcher interference to keep the inning alive. He then stole second and scored when Reynolds singled up the middle to give St. Paul a 1-0 lead.
That one run lead held through the first six innings thanks to Trevor Foss (1-0). The right-hander allowed only 4 hits and a walk through six innings, striking out four before his night was over.
Beck Wheeler came on in the seventh and retired the side in order, striking out two. Wheeler returned in the eighth and retired the first batter of the inning, but a bloop single by Will Savage just out of the reach of a diving Kyle Barrett gave the RailCats hope. Carey grounded out, moving Savage to second and bringing a call for left-hander Ken Frosch. Frosch struck out Alex Crosby to end the inning and keep the Saints on top by one.
Despite giving up the run, the Gary Southshore RailCats bullpen had been solid as well. De Leon tossed 2.2 innings, allowing just the one unearned run. Myles Smith came on with two outs in the seventh and tossed 1.1 innings of hitless relief. Closer Adam Quintana took over in the ninth and struck out two to keep this a one run game.
Zack Jones came on in the ninth looking to close it out for the St. Paul Saints. He struck out Tillman Pugh to begin the frame, then got Colin Willis to ground out for the second out. That brought Andy Paz to the plate, who worked the count to 2-2 before Jones blew him away to send the St. Paul Sends to the championship round.
The St. Paul Saints now await the winner of the Kansas City T-Bones-Sioux City Explorers. However, they do know that they will begin at home starting Tuesday night. First pitch will be 7:05.
By Robert Pannier