Zach Walters Drives in Five as Saints Inch Closer to Playoff Berth, 10-3
Friday night proved to be a banner day all the way around for the St. Paul Saints, as they not only defeated the Chicago Dogs, 10-3, but saw the Gary Southshore RailCats nearly get no-hit by the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, increasing their lead in the North Division to two games. The victory, coupled with the RailCats loss, reduced the magic number for St. Paul to clinch a playoff berth to two games. Zach Walters led the way with a homer and 5-RBI as St. Paul won their fifth straight game and ninth in their last 10.
St. Paul would jump out in front in the top of the first-inning. Max Murphy doubled to lead off the game and moved to third on a ground out. Two batters later, Zach Walters delivered a sacrifice fly to score Murphy, putting the Saints on top 1-0.
An inning later that lead became three. With one down, Justin O’Conner walked. The newly acquired Dan Motl followed with a single and Joey Wong beat out a little dribbler for a base hit to load the bases. A ground out by Murphy brought home O’Conner before Motl scored on a wild pitch.
Chris Nunn started for St. Paul and kept Chicago off the board through the first two frames but would give up a run in the third. Kenny Wilson led off with a walk and moved to second on a ground out. With two down, Trey Vavra doubled into left field to easily score Wilson and cut the deficit to two. It could’ve been a one run game when Joe Benson followed with a base hit, but Vavra was thrown out of the plate on a fantastic throw by Motl to end the frame.
It stayed 3-1 through the fifth but, in the sixth, the St. Paul Saints would begin to take command of this contest. In the top of the sixth, Brady Shoemaker led off with a single and Walters followed with his 12th homer of the year, clearing the wall and left field to make it a 5-1 ballgame.
In the seventh, Max Murphy led off with a base hit but was replaced on a fielder’s choice by Kyle Barrett. Barrett moved to third on two wild pitches before Brady Shoemaker walked. He then scored on a third wild pitch. With two down and Shoemaker at second, Nathaniel Maggio singled into left field to score Shoemaker and extend the lead to six. Dante Bichette, Jr. had a single in that inning, extending his hitting streak to 23 games, tied for tops and the American Association this season, while giving him the third longest hit streak in St. Paul Saints history.
In the eighth, the Saints would put three more runs on the board. Wong singled with one down and moved to third on a Murphy double. Barrett walked to load the bases and Wong came home on a sacrifice fly by Shoemaker. A two run double by Walters brought in Murphy and Barrett to give the Saints a 10-1 lead.
Chicago would show a lot of heart, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Dalton Blaser walked to begin the inning and moved to third on a double, and both scored on a Matt Dean single to cut the deficit to seven, but the Dogs would get no closer.
Chris Nunn (6-3) came out after 7-innings. He allowed 4-hits, 3-walks, and a run, while striking out 5. The left-hander has won three of his last four outings in six of his last eight decisions.
Zach Walters finished 2-4 with a run and 5-RBI. Max Murphy was 2-5 with 2-runs and an RBI. Kyle Barrett added a hit extending his hitting streak to 20.
The St. Paul Saints will look for the sweep on Saturday night. Eddie Medina (9-4, 2.53) will go for St. Paul. He will be opposed by Rich Mascheri (3-0, 1.80). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier