Aces Wild in 9-7 Slugfest Win for St. Paul Over Wichita
It had all the makings of a real pitchers’ duel. Saints pitcher Anthony Claggett was leading the league in ERA, and Wingnuts starter Jason Van Skike was second. These two were the opposing pitchers to start the All-Star game, and it was believed that this would be a match-up that would end in a 2-1 score, or some other low-scoring game. Sixteen runs later the Saints grabbed a huge come from behind win to take the final game of the three game series.
The game started out looking like it was going to be another long night for the Saints. Ryan Khoury started out with a single up the middle, and four pitches later Jake Kahaulelio hit his sixth home run of the year. Just like that the Wingnuts were up 2-0.
In the top of the third Wichita would add to the lead. Back-to-back singles by Danny Espinosa and Brent Clevlen put runners on first and second with one out. After a fielder’s choice, Chris McMurray singled past the shortstop and the Wingnuts led 3-0.
While Claggert was struggling, Van Skike was cruising through the first three innings. Nine up and nine down was how well he was doing, and he looked in complete control. That came to an end in the fourth. David Thaut led off the inning with a double to wall in right field. Jared McDonald then came to bat. McDonald had substituted for Sam Maus in the top of the third, and what a substitution it was. McDonald crushed a pitch from Van Skike over the right field fence for his second home run of the year, and St. Paul was down by just one. Willie Cabrera would follow the McDonald blast with a double, and two outs later Bigley walked. Jake Taylor then dropped in a bloop single to shallow right field and the score was tied.
St. Paul Saints Director of Media Relations Sean Aronson points out that good teams respond, and that is what the Wingnuts did in the top of the fifth. With one out Carlo Testa hit a ground ball into center field, and when Evan Bigley was a little lax about going for the ball, Testa took second uncontested. One out later Chris McClendon singled and Wichita was back on top.
Undeterred, the Saints showed they are a pretty good team too. Joey Becker walked and advanced on a sacrifice by Thaut. One out later Cabrera singled to score Becker and the game was tied again. Wrigley followed with a single to put runners at first and third, and Angelo Songco followed that with his 11th home run of the year to give the Saints the 7-4 lead. A seven run shelling against the Wingnuts Ace was completely unexpected, but it ignited the crowd to believe their team was going to pull it out.
The Saints understood that Wingnuts are the best team in the league for a reason, and that no lead is safe. This proved to be true on this night as well. With Mikey Mehlich on the mound for St. Paul, Clevlen led off the top of the seventh with his 12th home run of the year. A sense of impending doom seemed to hit the crowd, and that feeling took on reality rather quickly. A single, a sacrifice and another single put runners at the corner with one out. David Amberson then singled to make it 7-6. Jake Luce then followed with a sacrifice fly and the game was tied.
It only seemed like a matter of time before the Wingnuts would grab another victory, but not on this night. In the bottom of the eighth with Alez Hinshaw pitching, Bigley walked with one out. Jake Taylor followed that with his fourth home run of the year, and the Saints were back on top to stay.
Dan Sattler, who had relieved in the eighth, finished out the game, and got the win to move to 3-2. He has been on fire in the last two months, giving up just one run in his last 19 appearances.
While the victory was huge, there was one sad note to the game. 2B Sam Maus left the game in the fourth inning after going 0-1 in the contest. This marked the first time in 31 games that Maus did not reach base, setting an unofficial Saints record. The team has not kept a record of the longest such streak in their history.
The win was huge for the Saints, who stayed tied with Laredo for the Wild Card berth. The Saints now travel to Kansas City to play the T-Bones, while Wichita moves on to play Fargo-Moorhead.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA