Dillon Thomas Blasts Two Homers in AirHogs Crushing of Saints, 14-9
The St. Paul Saints were looking to extend their season best home winning streak to seven on Saturday night, but that was not to be as Dillon Thomas homered twice and drove in four in the Texas AirHogs, 14-9 victory. Tyler Matzek earned his third win of the year, and the AirHogs scored in six successive innings to even the three-game series at a game apiece.
The Texas AirHogs were held off the board in the first, but the Saints would grab the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Max Murphy walked to start the inning and moved to second when Justin O’Conner singled into left. Burt Reynolds then laced a ball down the line in left that bounced off the wall and away from the left fielder. That allowed Reynolds to reach third with both runners coming around to score.
The AirHogs responded right away in the top of the second. With one down, Stewart Ijames doubled and moved to third on a base hit by Chen Jupeng. St. Paul starter Jake Matthys got Du Xiaolei to hit a shallow fly ball for the second out of the inning, but Lu Zhenhong delivered a clutch double to the wall in right-center, bringing both runners in to tie the score.
The Saints would retake the lead in the bottom half of the inning. With one down, Anthony Phillips struck out, but the ball bounced away from the Texas catcher. He tried to throw out Phillips but his throw was way over the first baseman’s head, allowing Phillips to reach second on the error. Nathaniel Maggio followed with a double into center that scored the runner to put St. Paul up, 3-2.
From there, it was all Texas AirHogs. In the top of third, Matthys retired the first batter of the inning, but Dillon Thomas blasted his 10th homer of the year to dead center to tie the score. Correlle Prime followed with a drive to center field that Murphy did not seem to read well, as it bounced over his head for a double. Two batters later, Chen doubled past a diving Reynolds in left to give Texas the lead. He scored when Du doubled and the AirHogs had a 5-3 lead.
In the fourth, the AirHogs would begin to blow this game open. Ryan Schlosser relieved for St. Paul and Yang Jin greeted him with a single to start the frame. However, he retired the next two batters and it looked like it would be a quick inning, but Thomas hit his second homer of the night, a two-run blast to extend the lead to four. Prime then singled before Ijames walked to keep the inning alive. Chen followed with a base hit that scored Prime to make it a 9-3 game.
The Saints would get two of those runs back in the bottom of the inning. Matt Snyder singled with one out and moved to second when Maggio singled with two down. Murphy followed with a double to the wall in center, scoring both runners to make it 9-5.
In the fifth, Texas added three more. Lu started the inning with a double and scored on a two-out base hit by Li Ning. Thomas then drilled a double over the head of Murphy in center, allowing Li to score. A double by Prime brought home Thomas to make it a 12-5 score.
The Texas AirHogs tacked on a run in the sixth. Du reached on an error to start the inning and scored on a two-out hit by Casio Grider. That was the 13th run of the game, and all of them had come with two outs.
An inning later the lead was extended to nine. Thomas started the inning with a double off the wall in left, and he scored when Ijames singled two batters later. That was the first run scored by the AirHogs with less than two outs.
The St. Paul Saints were down, but not out. In the seventh, they would add four runs to at least get themselves within striking range. Jake Smith walked to start the inning before Walters singled into left field. Dante Bichette, Jr. then followed with a pop fly down the right field line that no one could reach. The ball dropped just fair, loading the bases with no one out. Snyder followed by ripping a ball over the center fielder’s head for a double, clearing the bases. A single by Maggio brought in Snyder to cut the AirHogs lead to 14-9.
In the eighth, Zach Jones came on and retired the AirHogs without a run scoring, the first time Texas had been held off the board since the first. Ken Frosch then tossed a scoreless frame, his 35th straight appearance without allowing a run.
St. Paul would put two runners on in the ninth looking to mount a rally, but Carlos Contreras would induce a double-play to end the game.
The Saints gave up a season high 20 hits. Dillon Thomas had a huge game, going 4-6 with 4-runs, 4-RBI, 2-doubles and 2-home runs. Correlle Prime was 3-6 with 2-runs and an RBI and Chen Juenpeng was 3-6 with 2-runs and 2-RBI. The St. Paul Saints were led by Matt Snyder, who was 3-4 with 2-runs scored and 3-RBI.
The rubber match to this series is tomorrow. The Texas AirHogs will send Gan Quan (0-5, 3.57) to the hill, looking for his first win of the season. The Saints counter with Matt Solter (1-4, 4.77). First pitch is scheduled for 5:05.
By Robert Pannier