Ian Gac’s Heavenly Home Runs Lead St. Paul Saints to 5-2 Victory
There is a cliché that says you can’t go home. Not only is Ian Gac proving that this is wrong, but he is destroying the belief. The Saints slugger pounded out two home runs and drove home all five St. Paul Saints runs in a 5-2 victory over his former team, the Lincoln Saltdogs.
It has been a tough stretch recently for Gac. After jumping out to a huge start to begin the season, the Saints slugger found himself in a 1-26 slump from June 22 to June 28. That saw his average tail from .384 to .319. It was a stretch that was completely out of the ordinary for the man who led the American Association in home runs last season.
Then Gac returned to Lincoln, a place he called home the last two seasons. The first two games of the series the slugger was 4-9 with 3 runs scored, but hadn’t driven in a run. That is until Thursday night. A first inning shot over the right field fence and a mammoth three-run home run that nearly went out of Haymarket Park in the eighth gave him five RBI. You can’t go home? Gac not only went home, but he kicked his feet up on the coffee table and took over the remote control.
Kevin McGovern started for the Lincoln Saltdogs and he retired the first two St. Paul Saints hitters of the game, then made the mistake of walking Vinny DiFazio. Next came Gac, who took an 0-2 pitch and went the other way with it over the right field fence for the two-run home run.
Dustin Crenshaw was the starter for the Saints, looking to tie for the lead in wins in the American Association. The big right-hander retired the side in order through the first three innings. That run came to an end when Matt Forgatch singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth, but Crenshaw’s defense came up big for him. Forgatch stole second base and two batters later Curt Smith singled. Forgatch was waived home but a great throw from Willie Argo in left to the catch, Vinny DiFazio, nailed Forgatch to keep it a tw0-run Saints lead.
In the fifth the Saltdogs finally got on the board. Brian Joynt led off with a double, and moved to third on a ground out. That brought Ryan Wiggins to the plate, who lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Joynt and make it a 2-1 game.
Two innings later Lincoln would tie it up, and it was the Joynt-Wiggins combination that got it going again. Joynt led off with a single and moved to third on a base hit by Mike Gilmartin. Wiggins followed with a single that plated Joynt, and the game was tied.
Following the Gac home run in the first, McGovern took command giving his club a chance to battle back in this one. The left-hander allowed just five hits and a walk over the next six innings, and two of those runners were wiped out by double-plays. His dominance had given the Saltdogs the chance to get back into the game and tie the score.
In the eighth that run came to an end. Back-to-back singles by Argo and DiFazio started the inning, bringing Gac to the plate. He took the first two pitches to make the count 2-0, then turned on a McGovern offering and hammered it over the left field fence for the three-run home run. The ball nearly cleared Haymarket Park itself, and left many watching the mammoth shot with amazement. Most important was that it gave the St. Paul Saints back the lead.
That would be it for McGovern (2-2). The left-hander went 7-plus innings, allowing 10 hits and 2 walks. He also allowed 5 runs, all of which were earned and struck out 2.
The seventh was the last inning for Crenshaw. Following the Gac home run, Saints manager George Tsamis turned to Mikey Mehlich in the eighth. Crenshaw (6-1) pitched 7 innings, allowing 10 hits as well and two runs. He did not walk or strike out a batter. Mehlich allowed a walk but retired the side to keep his team on top by three-runs.
In the ninth Tsamis turned to Ryan Rodebaugh. The closer had struggled the night before, allowing the Saltdogs to battle back from four runs down to tie the game before the Saints won in 12. It looked like Lincoln may get that chance again, but Rodebaugh had other plans. He retired the first two batters, then gave up a walk and single to bring the tying run to the plate. The right-hander got ahead 0-2 on Eddie Young then got him to ground out to end the game. It was Rodebaugh’s eighth save of the season.
The victory moved the St. Paul Saints record to 31-8. It is also the 12th straight series the club has won this season.
Gac finished 2-4, with 2 runs and 5 RBI. His two home runs now gives him five on the season. The Saints slugger is in the top five in runs scored, RBI, and doubles. DiFazio was 2-2 with 2 runs and 2 walks. The two-hits moved his average to .416, tops in the American Association.
Wiggins was 1-2 with 2 RBI. Joynt, Forgatch, Gaston and Aaron Payne all had two hits apiece for Lincoln.
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By Robert Pannier