Mike Kvasnicka Continues Torrid Run, Leads St. Paul Saints to 12-8 Victory
If this is the kind of results the St. Paul Saints can expect when Mike Kvasnicka returns from the disabled list, plan on him making at least a couple of more trips to the injured list this season. The club’s star slugger battered the Lincoln Saltdogs to lead the Saints to a 12-8 extra inning victory, making St. Paul the first American Association team to reach 30 wins.
A fluky injury sent Kvasnicka to the disabled list on June 13, and he returned eight-days later. After going 2-4 against Gary he was hitless over the next two games. Then the barrage started. The outfielder has hit in six-straight games, boasting a 15-27 run with 11 runs scored and 15 RBI. Six of those came Wednesday night.
Zach Varce started for the Saltdogs against Robert Coe. Lincoln got on the scoreboard against the St. Paul starter in the first inning when Matt Forgatch hit his first home run of the season with one out.
The Saints responded in the top of the second inning, and it was Kvasnicka who created the run. Varce retired the first two batters, then watched the outfielder blast a 1-1 pitch for his sixth home run and fifth in the last five games. That tied it at one.
In the third neither team scored, but in the fourth St. Paul took the lead, and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who led the charge. Willie Argo and Vinny DiFazio began the inning with back-t0-back singles, but the Lincoln starter retired the next two hitters, stymying the Saints attack. That is until Kvasnicka came to the plate. He drilled the first pitch he saw from Varce for a double that brought both runners home to give St. Paul the 3-1 lead.
Coe had cruised after the first inning run, but the Lincoln Saltdogs finally got to him in the fifth for a run. Mike Gilmartin walked with one out and moved to second on a single by Aaron Payne. Eddie Young doubled to bring home Gilmartin and cut the lead in half. The inning could have gone bad for Coe, but he struck out Forgatch before retiring Jon Gaston to keep his team in front.
In the sixth the Mike Kvasnicka Show continued. DiFazio singled to start the inning and Ian Gac was hit by a pitch to put two on with no one out. Angelo Songco doubled to bring home DiFazio, which brought Kvasnicka to the plate with runners at second and third with no one out. Surprisingly, he was not intentionally walked, and the Saltdogs would pay for that. Kvasnicka lined a hit for a two-run double to make it 6-2. He had been to the plate three times in the game and had two doubles and a home run already.
Coe left after 6 innings with a four-run lead. The right-hander had pitched a beauty, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks and 2 earned runs, while striking out 4. Mike Zouzalik pitched two solid innings of relief to keep the score 6-4, setting up a dramatic ninth inning (Read Feature on Mike Zouzalik).
Dylan Chavez came on in relief to close it out. He got both Jeremy Hamilton and Mike Gilmartin to ground out, then walked Aaron Payne and gave up a double to Young that scored Payne and that was it for Chavez.
Ryan Rodebaugh came in looking to close out the game, but he struggled as well. Forgatch singled to score Young and, after a Gaston single, Curt Smith doubled to score both runners and tie the game. After intentionally walking Mitch Canham, Rodebaugh finally closed out the inning, but the two teams were going to extra innings.
Neither team scored in the 10th inning, but in the 11th the game turned to the new international rule. Kvasnicka began at second and came home to score when Robert Youngdahl singled to bring him home.
Chris Peacock came on to close out the game for the St. Paul Saints but he, too, could not seal the deal. Payne began the inning on second and after a Young single moved him to third, he scored on a ground out to tie the game.
Into the 12th the game went, and that is when the Saints blew it open. Alonzo Harris began at second and scored when Willie Argo worked the count full before homering over the right field fence to make it 9-7. DiFazio and Gac singled to put two on, and two batters later Kvasnicka doubled for the third time in the game to make it 10-7. A perfect suicide squeeze by Youngdahl brought home Gac and Phillips single scored Kvasnicka. That made it 12-7.
Peacock came on in the home half of the inning looking to finish it off, but his struggles continued. Smith began at second and a one out walk added Brian Joynt on first. Two batters later Gilmartin singled to score Smith and that would be it for Peacock.
Alex Sogard came on and got Payne to fly out to end the game. Peacock (1-0) earned the win. Sogard collected his first save of the season.
Kvasnicka finished 4-6 with 3 runs and 6 RBI. It was his second game in his last five where he had at least 5 RBI. Both Argo and DiFazio went 3-6 with Argo driving in 2 and scoring 2 and DiFazio scoring 3. Young was 3-6 with a run and 2 RBI for Lincoln, and Forgatch scored 2 runs and drove in 3.
By Robert Pannier