Gac, Songco Power St. Paul Saints to 5-4 Victory Over Upstart Blasters
After seeing their 10-game winning streak snapped Sunday night, the St. Paul Saints needed their star players to step up and that is what Ian Gac and Angelo Songco did, joining Robert Coe in aiding the club’s 5-4 win over the Joplin Blasters. The win was the first victory of the season by the Saints over a club that currently has a winning record.
Prior to the game, Coe came off the disabled list, and the right-hander looked very impressive. He shut out the Blasters through the first five innings, only allowing a two-out unearned run to score in the top of the sixth on an error by the St. Paul second baseman. Through the first five innings, Coe allowed just a double and a walk, retiring 15 of the 17 batters he faced.
While Coe was handling business on the mound, his offense staked him to a 3-0 lead early in the game. In the bottom of the first Alonzo Harris opened with a single and stole second base four pitches later. Sam Maus struck out, and Willie Argo ripped a single into center field to score Harris. That brought Gac to the plate, who ripped a double down the line to the wall in left field to score Argo. Two batters later Angelo Songco singled, scoring Gac and giving Coe a 3-0 lead.
In the sixth Joplin cut the deficit to two. Mitch Glasser walked and Maikol Gonzalez followed with a double that sent Glasser to third. Next came Oscar Mesa, who ripped a shot down the left field line, but third baseman Steve Nikorak made a nice stab to catch the ball, then alertly stepped on the third base bag to double up Glasser. It looked like the Saints starter was going to get out of the inning, especially after Yasser Gomez grounded a ball to Sam Maus at second base, but the Saints infielder misplayed the ball, allowing Gonzalez to score. A walk to former Saints catcher Jake Taylor ended the day for Coe.
The right-hander had an impressive return, allowing just 2 hits and 3 walks in 5.2 innings pitched. The one run scored against him was unearned, and he lowered his ERA to 1.26.
Following the game, Saints manager George Tsamis had nothing but praise for his starter. “That’s a good hitting club over there and Coe pitched well. He did a great job against them.”
The St. Paul Saints responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Mike Kvasnicka hit a shot in right field that hit off the wall and rolled back toward the infield. Kvasnicka raced into third with a triple. Songco followed by lining a single into right center field and it was 4-1 Saints.
In the seventh the St. Paul Saints extended their lead. Jon Jones took over for Joplin and after retiring the first two hitters, Ian Gac took a 2-2 pitch and ripped it over the left field wall for his second home run of the season. Gac finished 2-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. Songco also had 2 hits and 2 RBI. The two are tied for the American Association lead with 18 RBI each.
Up 5-1, Tsamis turned the game over to his bullpen. Mike Zouzalik had ended the sixth inning and breezed through the seventh, but in the eighth he got in a bit of trouble. Gonzalez singled with one out and scored on a double by Mesa. Alex Sogard relieved Zouzalik and gave up a base hit that brought Mesa home. Tsamis brought in his closer, Ryan Rodebaugh, to end the threat and he retired the final two batters to end the inning.
The Saints closer stayed on for the ninth and the Joplin Blasters made it interesting. Steven Tinoco singled with one out. Two batters later Glasser singled, moving Tinoco to third. Gonzalez followed with a base hit, driving Tinoco home to make it a one-run game. The game took on a whole new tension to it. Rodebaugh threw two quick strikes to Mesa who took the third pitch and hit it to center fielder Alonzo Harris, who closed the ball into his glove to end the game.
Coe (2-0) remained undefeated early on in 2015. Joplin Blasters starter Jorge Martinez (2-1) received his first loss of the season. Rodebaugh earned his fifth save, despite allowing his first run of the year.
By Robert Pannier