Jeff Shields Skewers T-Bones to Lead St. Paul Saints to 3-1 Win
It’s beginning to look a lot like St. Paul Saints baseball once again. Excellent starting pitching. Great home run power. Incredible defense. That has been the model for the Saints all season long, and Saturday night it was on display again as the club got eight outstanding innings out of Jeff Shields and Ian Gac’s home run put the club on top to stay in a 3-1 Saints victory over the Kansas City T-Bones. That moved the club to 67-25.
Everything started out right for the Saints on this night. Drew Gay, who was on the St. Paul roster earlier in the season, started for Kansas City. Both he and Shields pitched a scoreless first, but the visitors grabbed the lead in the top of the second.
Ryan Lashley led off the inning with a hit into left field that he stretched into a double. Nate Hanson followed with a sharp single into left that moved Lashley to third. Joey Paciorek then hit into a double-play that scored Lashley and St. Paul was up 1-0.
In the bottom of the third the T-Bones got that run back. Robby Kuzdale beat out an infield single, then stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice. A ground out by Starlin Rodriguez brought Kuzdale home to tie the score at one.
The fourth and fifth innings were quite uneventful on the scoreboard as neither team was able to mount any kind of a rally. The only fireworks came between innings in the fourth when catcher Vinny DiFazio was ejected. No one was sure why this happened at the time of this posting, and Sam Maus was sent into the game to bat in the three spot in the order.
The game remained a 1-1 tie until the top of the sixth when Ian Gac changed that. Gay retired the first two hitters of the inning, and was up 0-2 on Gac, but the Saints slugger took a ball and then fouled off two pitches to stay alive. The sixth pitch of the at-bat proved to be a charm as he drilled it for his 10th home run of the season to put the Saints on top to stay. With the home run Gac helped set a club record as six players on the club have now hit double-digits in home runs.
In the seventh the visitors would extend their lead. Hanson reached on an error and moved to third on a wild pitch. Three batters late Alonzo Harris delivered a huge, clutch base hit that drove Hanson home to make it 3-1.
That was plenty enough run support on this day for Shields. Following the third inning Shields cruised through to the eighth. His only trouble spot came in the fifth when his defense bailed him out. With two outs Kuzdale singled and stole second. Sergio Leon followed with a sharp single into centerfield. Kuzdale rounded third looking to give Kansas City the lead, but Harris’ throw to the plate was perfect and Kuzdale was tagged out by Paciorek to end the inning.
From that point on the Saints starter allowed just a lone base hit over the final three innings he pitched. Shields (13-2) went 8 innings, allowing 5 hits and 1 earned run. He struck one 1 and didn’t walk anyone. Of his 103 pitches, an impressive 74 were for strikes.
In the ninth manager George Tsamis turned to setup man Mike Zouzalik to close out the game. The right-hander pitched a perfect ninth to record his third save of the season.
Harris had the big night at the plate, going 2-4 with an RBI. Gac was 1-4 with a run and an RBI. The T-Bones mustered just five hits, with two coming off the bats of Vladimir Frias and Kuzdale.
By Robert Pannier