Alonzo Harris Runs, Powers St. Paul Saints to 10-5 Win Over Gary
Alonzo Harris was struggling a bit early on in the 2016 American Association season, but Sunday night he looked to be out of his mini-slump. The Saints center fielder had three-hits with 2-runs scored and 4-RBI, including a huge three-run homer as the home team completed the sweep of the Gary Southshore RailCats 10-5.
John Straka (1-0) started for the Saints and he looked quite impressive early on. The big right-hander breezed through the first four innings, striking out four and only issuing a walk in the second as his lone runner allowed. Meanwhile, his teammates were putting up big numbers on the scoreboard for him.
In the bottom of the first the Saints jumped out to the 3-0 lead. Harris singled to get it started and moved to third on a base hit by Breland Almadova. With Willie Argo at the plate, Almadova broke for second and reached easily. When Jose Gonzalez attempted to throw out Almadova, Harris alertly broke for home on the delayed steal and reached easily. That made it 1-0. Argo then walked, and Gary starter Travis McGee looked like he was going to get out of the inning when he retired the next two hitters, however, Tony Thomas singled to left to score Almadova and it was 2-0. Mike Gilmartin’s single to right field scored Argo to make it a three-run Saints lead.
The score would remain that way until the fourth when St. Paul blew it open. Gilmartin got the inning going with a base hit, and moved to second when Tanner Vavra walked two batters later. That brought Harris to the plate, and he promptly deposited a McGee offering over the left field wall for a three-run homer, extending the lead to six. Almadova reached on an error, but was thrown out trying to steal second. Argo then walked with two outs and stole second, his first of the season, and Angelo Songco was walked. There were still two outs and the Saints were looking for a clutch hit, and Nate Hanson delivered it, blasting a homerun over the left-center field fence to make it 9-0.
Straka has been brilliant through the first four, but he found himself in some trouble in the fifth. Tillman Pugh delivered the first hit of the game for the RailCats, a solo homerun that made it 9-1. Gonzalez followed with a single and Alex Crosby walked to put two on. A base hit to left by Marquis Riley loaded the bases and there was still no one out. Straka remained poised, however, getting shallow fly outs from the next two batters, and it looked like he may get out of the inning without any further damage, but back-to-back RBI singles by Matt Hibbert and Jeremy Hamilton plated three runs to make it 9-4.
The Saints got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth. Gilmartin walked to start the inning, the third time he had reached base. Tony Caldwell then drew a walk and Vavra had a sacrifice to move both runners into scoring position. That brought Harris to the plate looking to deliver a big hit again, and he came through, singling into left-center to score Caldwell and make it another double-digit scoring night for St. Paul.
Gary would add one more run in the eighth. An RBI fielder’s choice by Alex Crosby closed out the scoring in the 10-5 St. Paul Saints victory.
Harris had just three hits in his first 15 at-bats, but went 3-5 to raise his average to .300. He also stole two bases. Hanson finished 2-5 with 3-RBI. Gilmartin also had two hits, scored two and drove in one.
Straka earned his first win in a Saints uniform. McGee (0-1) took the loss.
The Gary Southshore RailCats head on to Iowa to take on the Sioux City Explorers. Both teams are o-4 on the young season. In the opposite end of the spectrum, the St. Paul Saints head to Sioux Falls to take on the Canaries with both teams starting out 4-0. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier