Vinny Nittoli Derails Railroaders in Saints 4-1 Victory
After taking three of four from the Texas AirHogs, the St. Paul Saints traveled an hour south to begin a three game set against the Cleburne Railroaders. After three straight extra inning contests, the Saints were in a quality start from Vinny Nittoli, and he gave them just that, tossing six outstanding innings in the 4-1 victory. It was a three-run fourth that proved the be the difference maker, as two Cleburne errors aided the win.
It was an incredible pitching duel through the first three innings. St. Paul had three hits total against Dylan Mouzakes. Meanwhile, St. Paul starter Vinny Nittoli was absolutely dominating the Railroaders. He allowed a two out hit in the first, then retired eight straight, striking out 5 through the first three frames.
In the fourth, the St. Paul Saints would take the lead. Brady Shoemaker led off with a walk, but was replaced on the bases on a fielder’s choice by Noah Perio, Jr. Jayce Boyd followed with a hard hit ball to second that went for an error, bringing Dante Bichette, Jr. to the plate. He grounded a ball to third in what could have been a double-play, but second baseman Jordan Dean lost the relay throw in the sun, allowing the ball to go into the right field. Perio came into score with Boyd taking third. Two batters later, Justin O’Conner walked to load the bases, bringing Josh Allen to the plate. He scorched a ball to third that Patrick Palmeiro had hit off his glove and down the line for a double. Two runners scored, and no ball had gone much beyond the infield, but the St. Paul Saints had a 3-0 lead.
Nittoli had rolled through the first five, but in the sixth he looked like he ran out of a little gas. Trevor Sealey led off with a rope to left-center that he legged out for a double. KC Huth followed with a flare into right for a single. A walk to Cam Monger loaded the bases and there was still no one out. That brought Angelo Gumbs to the plate, who already had two hits in the contest. However, he grounded into a double-play, scoring Sealey. Levi Scott was hit by a pitch, bringing Manager George Tsamis out from the dugout. Whatever he said had a big impact, as Nittoli blew away Palmeiro on three pitches to end the threat.
Vinny Nittoli came out after six, allowing 5-hits, a walk, and a run. He struck out 8. Mike Devine came on in the seventh and retired the Railroaders in order in the seventh. In the eighth, he gave up a lead-off single, but induced a double-play before getting the final out of the frame. Devine threw 15 pitches in his two innings of work, all for strikes.
In the ninth, the Saints added some insurance. Allen walked to start the frame. He moved to second on a ground out, but there were two down when Brady Shoemaker came to the plate. He smoked one deep to the wall in right that hit off of the right fielder’s glove and in for a double. Allen easily scored to make it 4-1.
That sent the game to the ninth, where Tom Wilhelmson came on for St. Paul. The Saints closer retired the side in order for his third save of the season.
Josh Allen finished with 2-RBI and Brady Shoemaker was 2-4 with an RBI for the St. Paul Saints.
Game 2 of this series is scheduled for Saturday. First pitch is at 7:06.
By Robert Pannier