Historic Night for St. Paul Saints Leads to Improbable Comeback Victory
There are times in every championship season where the team reflects back on a key win that really catapulted them to the championship. Saturday night just may very well have been that win for the St. Paul Saints. After trailing by as many as five-runs, and never leading in the game until the very end, after battling back to tie the score in the eighth, only to see the Winnipeg Goldeyes retake the lead in the 1oth, the St. Paul Saints found a way to win, getting a bases loaded wild pitch on a strike out to win the game 12-11. It was a truly remarkable comeback.
The second inning was full of fireworks. In the top half of the inning, Reggie Abercrombie doubled to get the inning started and he scored when Jacob Rogers followed with a single. Casio Grider doubled to move both runners into scoring position and Ridge Hoopi-Haslam followed with a two-run single to center that put the Goldeyes on top 3-0. Hoopi-Haslam was thrown out trying to reach second base for the first out of the inning. Carlton Tanabe then reached on a walk and Maikol Gonzalez beat out a bunt for a single to put runners at the corners with one out. Gonzalez would then steal second base and Wes Darvill followed with a single that scored both runners to make it 5-0.
That would be it for Saints starter Kody Knaus. Manager George Tsamis was forced to turn to his bullpen, but he was not the only one.
In the bottom of the second, the Saints responded. Tony Thomas doubled to start the inning and he scored on a base hit by Willie Argo. Tony Caldwell then drew a walk and Breland Almadova followed with a single up the middle to score Argo. A sacrifice fly by Maxx Garrett brought home Caldwell and it was quickly 5-3. Following a single by Tanner Vavra, Winnipeg Manager Rick Forney had seen enough and Ethan Carnes’ day was over.
In the top of the third, the Goldeyes would respond. Jacob Rogers walked with one out and scored when Hoopii-Haslam drilled a two-run homer over the left field wall. That was his second homer of the season and put the lead back at four.
St. Paul came back with three in the bottom half of the inning. Angelo Songco started the frame with a towering shot over the right field fence for his eighth homer of the year. Later in the inning, Breland Almadova added a two-run homer, his third of the year to make it a 7-6 game.
In a battle of tit-for-tat, the Goldeyes put up three more runs in the top of the fourth. David Rohm was hit by a pitch and Josh Romanski followed with a double to put both runners into scoring position with no one out. A walk to Abercrombie loaded them up and Rogers followed with a double that was just out of the reach of Alonzo Harris. That plated two and made the score 9-6. A single by Tanabe scored another run, but the inning came to an end when Almadova gunned Grider trying to reach third.
In two and a half innings the two teams put up 16-runs in a wild affair. Then the bats went silent. The Saints bullpen was masterful from the fifth inning on, allowing no runs to score from the fifth through the ninth. That included a wild fifth inning when the Goldeyes got three hits but could not score a run.
The pivotal play of the inning came on another assist from an outfielder, this time by Alonzo Harris. With runners at first and second and two outs, Abercrombie singled up the middle. Darvill looked like he would score easily, but Romanski tried for third and was thrown out by Harris before the runner crossed home plate. That kept the score 10-6.
From the fourth through the seventh the Winnipeg bullpen was equally impressive. They gave up just two hits and kept the lead, but in the eighth their success ran out.
Argo was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and moved to second when Caldwell drew the free pass. An error allowed Almadova to reach base and the bases were loaded with no one out. Two batters later, Harris ripped a double down the left field line that plated two runs and pulled St. Paul within two. A strike out would make the second out of the inning, and brought Nate Hanson to the plate. He worked the count full before singling into left field. Two runs came into score and the game was tied.
It was an impressive comeback and the crowd was hyped. The excitement turned to sadness, however, when Winnipeg retook the lead in the top of the 10th inning. Ryan Rodebaugh had pitched beautifully for the Saints, but he gave up a single and a walk to put two on with two outs. Tsamis turned to Caleb Thielbar, who gave up a single to Romanski that put the Goldeyes back on top.
That set up the dramatic bottom half of the inning. Jalien Peguero retired the first batter of the frame, but Songco followed with a single. Thomas then drew a walk and Argo singled to score Songco and tie the game. A walk to Caldwell loaded the bases and it was clear that an amazing comeback was going to see its climax. Almadova then grounded into a fielder’s choice that nailed Thomas at the plate. That kept the bases loaded but there were two outs now. Aaron Gretz pinch-hit and worked the count full. Peguero threw a great slider that Gretz missed on, but the ball went under the catcher’s legs and to the backstop. Argo scored the winning run on the wild pitch and the Saints had the improbable 12-11 victory.
Thielbar (2-1) earned the win and Peguero (2-3) took the loss. It was a truly exciting victory.
“That was unbelievable,” Tsamis explained after the game. “What a great comeback that was. The guys never quit and that showed. Just a great win.”
The great win saw the St. Paul Saints set a club record by drawing 11 walks in the game. Songco was 3-5 with 2-runs and an RBI. Caldwell was 3-6 with 2-runs scored and 3-RBI.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes had seven players that recorded at least two-hits in the game. Hoopi-Haslam was 2-5 with a run and 4-RBI. Rogers was 2-4 with 2-runs and 3-RBI.
These two teams go at it again tomorrow night. Right-hander Robert Coe (4-1, 4.06) will get the start for the St. Paul Saints. Mikey O’Brien (4-2, 4.21) gets the call for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. First pitch is 5:05.
By Robert Pannier