Aaron Gretz Leads St. Paul Saints Double-Header Sweep
It took two days of rainouts and a move to another stadium, but the St. Paul Saints finally were able to get on the field against the Joplin Blasters. Starter Jeff Shields was forced into relief duty when he had to finish out Tuesday’s suspended game, tossing five innings to give the Saints their first shutout of the season. In Game 2, the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie into the 11th inning, but a three-run outburst by St. Paul led to the victory and the double-header sweep.
Game 1 had actually started on Tuesday before rain came and suspended the game until Wednesday afternoon. Robert Coe had started the game on Tuesday for St. Paul and pitched two shutout innings.
Prior to the rain coming the Saints jumped out to the 4-0 lead. Neither team scored in the first, but in the top of the second Angelo Songco started the inning off by drawing a walk. Tony Thomas also drew a walk, and Willie Argo singled to score Songco. Argo would then steal second, his second stolen base of the year. Two batters a wild pitch scored Thomas and moved Argo to third. Sam Maus’ sacrifice fly scored Argo, bringing Aaron Gretz to the plate. He took a first pitch strike and then ripped a home run, his first professional round-tripper to make it 4-0.
Coe retired the Blasters in order in the bottom of the second, but the rain became too severe and the game was suspended after the top of the third.
When play resumed Jeff Shields took the hill for the Saints and was absolutely brilliant. The right-hander allowed four hits over his five innings of work. He walked one and struck out four. The only inning where he was in any trouble was in the fifth when he allowed a hit and a walk, but Shields (2-1) struck out Aaron Brill to end the inning.
The Saints only managed four hits in the contest, but took advantage of their chances.
Game 2 was a pitcher’s duel that was scheduled for seven innings but wound up going 11 before St. Paul would win 4-1. John Straka started for the Saints, and pitched a gem through 5.1 innings. He allowed just one run, and that came in the bottom of the second. Straka retired the first two hitters of the inning, but a single by Cory Morales kept the inning alive. Juan Medina’s double scored Morales and it was 1-0 Joplin.
Patrick Mincey had been brilliant for the Blasters through the first three innings, but in the fourth the Saints would finally plate a run against him. Nate Hanson got the rally started by roping a double into the gap. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Willie Argo tripled with two outs. That tied the score at one and the marathon was on.
The bullpens were absolutely dominant. Jose Ortega finished out the fourth and pitched a scoreless fifth for Joplin. Victor Capellan pitched two scoreless innings, as did Winston Abreu for the Blasters.
The Saints bullpen was no less stellar. Caleb Thielbar took over for Straka with one out in the sixth and tossed 3.2 perfect innings, striking out 3. In the 1oth the Saints turned to Chris Peacock who pitched a perfect inning. That set up the 11th inning.
A walk to Willie Argo got it started, and he advanced to second when Brady Burzynski reached on a fielder’s choice. A fielder’s choice by Tanner Vavra loaded the bases and there was still no one out. That brought the Game 1 hero to the plate, and Gretz came through again, doubling to score all three runners. That made it 4-1.
In the ninth, the Saints sent Ryan Rodebaugh to the plate looking to close out the game. He would give up a one out single, but would retire the final two hitters of the game for his fourth save of the season. Peacock (1-0) earned his first win of the season.
Weather permitting, these two teams will play another double-header tomorrow night. The first game is scheduled for 4:00.
By Robert Pannier