Dan Johnson Returns to Lead St. Paul Saints to 8-5 Victory
Dan Johnson returned to the St. Paul Saints Sunday afternoon, giving the team a real shot in the arm. The shot in the arm proved to be a boost of power, as he homered in his second at bat with the team, one of three home runs the team hit on the evening in the 8-5 victory over the Cleburne Railroaders. Matt Schuld also returned and tossed 5.2 solid innings for his first win of the season.
As was the case in the previous two contests, the Cleburne Railroaders took the lead to start the game, this time in the top of the second. Geraldo Valentin and Pichi Balet led off the frame with back-to-back singles. Axel Johnson followed with a base hit that brought Valentin home to make it 1-0.
The Saints responded right away in the bottom of the second. Mitch Delfino doubled just inside the line in left to get the inning going. Two batters later Jon Kristoffersen was hit by a pitch putting two on with one down. Kes Carter was the next batter and he drilled a ball over the center fielder’s head and to the wall for a double. Both runners came into score and St. Paul led 2-1. It was the first time the Saints had led in the series.
An inning later the St. Paul Saints extended their lead to two. Dan Johnson, who had returned to the team earlier in the day, led off the inning with his first homer of the year, a blast over the right field wall that made it 3-1.
It would stay that way until the sixth, when the Saints would take a commanding lead. Alberto Rodriguez retired the first two batters of the frame, but a walk to Carter kept the inning alive before Breland Almadova beat out a slow roller to second for a base hit. That brought Brady Shoemaker to the plate, who went the other way over the wall in right-center for his 19th home run of the season. That made the score 6-1, but St. Paul was not done. Johnson worked the count full before drawing a walk, bringing Nate Hanson to the plate. He fell behind 0-2, then blasted his 13th homer of the year to extend the lead to seven.
The Railroaders came right back in the seventh, plating four to make this a three-run game. Hunter Courson and Blake Grant-Parks drew back-to-back walks to start the frame. Alex Polston followed with a base hit into left that scored Courson before Maikol Gonzalez doubled into right to bring home Grant-Parks.
Vinny Nittoli came on and one of his pitches got away from the Saints catcher for a passed ball, allowing Polston to score. A base hit by Nick Van Stratten scored Gonzalez to make it 8-5. Valentin followed with a double, putting runners at second and third with just one out and the tying run was at the plate, but Nittoli got a fly out and a line out to end the inning and keep the lead at three.
Matt Schuld (1-2), who had been re-signed by the team earlier in the day, pitched 5.2 solid innings, allowing 6-hits, a run and 3-strikeouts. Nittoli tossed 2-scoreless innings of relief. Ivan Vieitez came on in the ninth and walked consecutive batters with one down, but Vieitez got a grounder to second that Mitch Delfino turned into a double-play to preserve the victory. That was Vieitez’s first save of the season.
Dan Johnson was 1-2 with 3-walks, a run, and 2-runs scored. Brady Shoemaker finished with 3-RBI, and Kes Carter was 2-3 with a run, 2-RBI and he was hit twice for St. Paul.
The St. Paul Saints will welcome the Wichita Wingnuts to town on Monday to start a four-game series. Jordan Cooper (6-1, 3.75) will go for Wichita. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier