Kramer Sneed Just What the Doctor Ordered for Ailing St. Paul Saints
The St. Paul Saints returned from a three-game series in Lincoln where they won two of three games. That was the good part. The bad part was that injuries continued to plague the club, and a pesky Lincoln lineup depleted the team’s bullpen. That made Kramer Sneed’s outing all the more important Friday night.
The club needed their left-hander to come out and give them a huge outing against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks Friday night, and he delivered just what the St. Paul Saints needed. Sneed pitched 7.2 outstanding innings to lead his club to a 4-2 win, their 32nd of the season.
Sneed may have given the club an outstanding start, but it didn’t start out that way. With one out, shortstop Zach Penprase drilled a shot over the left field fence to make it 1-0 RedHawks. Chad Mozingo then drew a walk before former Saints player Joe Bonfe struck out. Mozingo stole second base, and came home to score on a Joe Dunigan base hit. That made it a two-run lead for the visitors.
The Saints got one of those runs back in the home half of the first inning. Alonzo Harris led off the inning and took a 1-1 pitch from Brandon Mann and crushed it over the left field fence for his fourth home run of the year. That cut the deficit in half.
In the bottom of the second the Saints tied the score. Anthony Phillips began the inning by reaching on an error and moved to second on a walk to Dan Kaczrowski. Mann struck out Harris and Willie Argo but Vinny DiFazio delivered a huge two-out hit down the line in left that brought Phillips home to knot the score at two.
The score remained tied at two over the next couple of innings, but in the bottom of the fifth the St. Paul Saints took the lead. DiFazio reached on an infield single to begin the inning, and moved to second when Ian Gac walked. Two batters later Mike Kvasnicka lined a single to score DiFazio and the home team had their first lead of the contest.
Two innings later Gac extended the lead. Mann retired the first two hitters of the inning, bringing the Saints first baseman to the plate. Gac fouled off four straight pitches before taking a ball. He then ripped a Mann offering that fell just over the left field wall for his sixth home run of the season. The shot was also his third home run in two games, and gave his club a two-run lead.
While his club was putting up runs, Sneed was cruising. The left-hander had no doubt that his club would put up runs for him after his tough first inning. “The moment I got to the dugout Vinny (DiFazio) looked at me and said, ‘You know we’re going to score a lot more than two runs.’”
Sneed had admittedly struggled in the first, but he came out on all cylinders afterward. He gave up a walk in the second and a single in the third but in the fourth and fifth he retired the RedHawks in order. A two out single in the sixth by Bonfe broke a streak of nine straight retired.
Sneed eventually left after recording two outs in eighth. The left-hander moved his record to 7-1, tops in the American Association. He pitched 7.2 innings, allowed 6 and 2 walks, with 2 runs scored. He struck out 6.
After the game, manager George Tsamis was pleased to tout the performance of his starter. “We really needed him to have a big start for us after our bullpen had to pitch so much in Lincoln,” the manager explained. “He gave us a great start tonight.”
From there Tsamis turned to Mike Zouzalik to close it out. The right-hander allowed a hit in the ninth, but he got the final four outs he needed to give the Saints reliever his first save of the season. The outing lowered his ERA to 2.16, and now the club has won all 16 games he has appeared in this season.
Mann (1-4) pitched well for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, but he took the tough loss. He pitched 7 innings, allowing 7 hits, 3 walked and 4 runs, 3 of which were earned. He struck out 10.
DiFazio finished 3-4 with a run and an RBI. Gac went 2-3 to extend his hitting streak to four games. He is 8-16 in that span with three home runs.
By Robert Pannier