Jeff Shields Creates Log Jam Atop League Standings for Wins, Saints Win 9-6
After watching Dustin Crenshaw gain his 11th win on Friday night and Kramer Sneed win his 10th on Saturday, it was time for Jeff Shields to pitch himself into the double-digit category in wins, and Sunday night he pitched a gem in leading the St. Paul Saints to a 9-6 victory over the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The victory continues triangles of success as several trios of Saints players find themselves at the top of differing categories in the American Association.
Brian Mann started for Fargo-Moorhead, and he found himself in trouble right off the bat. Alonzo Harris led off the game by drawing a walk and Willie Argo followed with a single that moved Harris to second. Vinny DiFazio was the next hitter and he ripped a three-run home run for his 12th round tripper of the season. That gave DiFazio 60 RBI, tops in the league.
In the top of the second the Saints would extend their lead. Dan Kaczrowski began the inning with a base hit. That gave the St. Paul Saints second baseman a hit in 16-straight games, a team high. Two hitters later Argo walked and DiFazio was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought Angelo Songco to the plate, who took a 1-1 pitch and ripped it for his second double of the game, clearing the bases to make it 6-0. For Songco that gave him 58 RBI, giving him sole possession of second place in the league in the category, now trailing only DiFazio and just ahead of teammate Mike Kvasnicka.
The Saints would score single runs over the next two innings. Joey Paciorek led off the third inning with a double and two batters later Kaczrowski walked. Harris followed with a single that scored Paciorek to make it 7-0.
Angelo Songco led off the fourth inning with a single. It was an impressive night for the Saints first baseman. Songco went 4-5 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI. He also had two doubles. Lashley’s walk moved Songco to second and he scored on a single by Paciorek.
With an eight-run lead Shields was masterful. Even when the RedHawks attempted to mount a rally, he made big pitches to end the threat. That was no more prevalent than in the first inning. Following the DiFazio three-run home run in the top half of the inning, the Saints starter retired the first two hitters of the inning, but then gave up back-to-back singles that brought the tying run to the plate. Shields threw a first pitch strike to slugger Joe Dunigan, then got him to ground out to end the inning. It was pitching artistry at its best.
Over the next four innings Shields allowed a lone double. That gave him a streak of 12 batters retired out of 13. In the sixth Fargo-Moorhead was finally able to get a couple of runs against the Saints starter. With one out Zac Penprase walked and Chad Mozingo followed with a base hit. Joe Bonfe’s ground out scored Penprase and Dunigan singled home Mozingo to make it 8-2.
The Saints responded with a run in the top of the seventh. Harris’ one out double got the inning going. Argo followed with a single that drove home Harris to give St. Paul their ninth run of the game. Harris and Argo had nearly identical days at the top of the order. Both men went 2-5 with 2 runs scored and an RBI. They both drew a walk as well.
In the bottom of the eighth the RedHawks got two runs back. With Shields out of the game, Penprase singled with one out and Mozingo followed with a shot that cleared the wall in right to make it 9-4. Mozingo remained hot, going 3-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. It was his third home run of the season.
In the ninth Fargo-Moorhead attempted to rally again. Ryan Pineda singled to begin the inning and moved to third on a single by Joe Staley. Taylor Oldham’s ground out moved Staley to second, and Pineda scored on a single by Tyler Peterson.
That brought a call from manager George Tsamis for closer Ryan Rodebaugh. Connor Andrus’ sacrifice fly scored Staley to make it 9-6. Rodebaugh got Penprase to ground out, and the Saints held on for victory No. 51 on the season. For the St. Paul closer it was his league-leading 17th save of the season.
Shields (10-1) earned the victory. The right-hander went 7 innings, allowing 6 hits, a walk and 2 earned runs. He struck out 5 in his 99 pitch performance. It was an excellent outing following his first loss of the season.
Besides the performances by Harris, Argo and Songco, three other Saints players had two hits. Lashley, Paciorek and Kaczrowski all went 2-4, and Paciorek and Kaczrowski each scored a run. Songco’s four-hit game increased his average to .351, putting him second behind DiFazio for the league lead.
By Robert Pannier