RailCats Rally Falls Short, St. Paul Saints Win 6-5
Friday night’s game had all the makings of a classic St. Paul Saints blow out, as the team jumped out to an early 5-1 lead just one inning into the contest. However, the feisty Gary Southshore RailCats rallied to nearly erase a 6-2 deficit, scoring three in the ninth, before the game ended on a perfect relay to give the St. Paul Saints the 6-5 victory.
Robert Coe started for St. Paul and struggled a bit in the first inning. He struck out the first batter, but then gave up a single to Masato Fukae. Two batters later Jeremy Hamilton walked and Jose Sermo delivered a clutch two-out single that scored Fukae to make it 1-0 Gary.
The Saints responded right away with five in the bottom half of the inning, thanks to RailCats starter Eric Eadington’s inability to throw strikes. The Gary left-hander retired the first batter, but then walked the next three hitters, including Breland Almadova, Willie Argo, and Angelo Songco. Next up was Nate Hanson, who grounded to short. The shortstop had just one play but mishandled the ball, allowing Almadova to score and everyone to be safe. A base hit by Tony Thomas scored Argo to make it 2-1. After striking out Tony Caldwell, Eadington then walked Tanner Vavra and Sam Maus, with each free pass plating a run. A wild pitch scored Thomas and it was 5-1 Saints.
The game looked like it was going to be a blow out from there, but the Saints could not capitalize on the early run production. Eadington finished the second inning before turning the game over to the bullpen. For the next four innings the Saints managed just two-hits and a walk, a fact that left St. Paul Manager George Tsamis a bit dismayed.
“It was a sloppy game by us all the around,” the Manager explained after the contest. “We didn’t hit well; we didn’t pitch well. It was just sloppy.”
The game remained 5-1 until the top of the sixth when the RailCats plated a run. Jose Gonzalez led off with a double against Coe and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Tsamis turned to Cody Wheeler to close out the inning, but he allowed back-to-back singles, the first of which scored Gonzalez.
Now up by only three, Tony Caldwell restored the four-run advantage with a towering drive over the right field wall in the bottom of the sixth inning. It was Caldwell’s first homerun of the year and continues his hot streak that started in the exhibition season.
Winning by four, the St. Paul Saints looked like they had this one in the bag. Alec Crawford looked sharp in the eighth and retired the first two hitters of the ninth on strikeouts, but he could not get the elusive final out. A double by Gonzalez kept the inning alive and an error by Sam Maus continued to give life to the RailCats hopes. Gonzalez scored on the error. Jarred Mederos then drew a walk and that would be it for Crawford.
Tsamis had hoped not to use his closer on back-to-back nights, but the rally necessitated him turning to Ryan Rodebaugh. The first batter he faced was Cameron Newell, whom he promptly hit to load the bases. That brought Tillman Pugh to the plate for the dramatic climax. Pugh lined a ball down the right field line that just barely touched fair, Devaire and Mederos easily scored, but Newell ran through the stop sign by the third base coach. Almadova came up with the ball in right and fired to Maus who made a perfect relay to Caldwell at the plate. Newell realized he was a dead duck and tried to return to third, but he would not outrun Caldwell and was tagged out to end the game. That gave the Saints the 6-5 win.
Coe (1-0) earned the victory, lasting 5.2 innings. The right-hander allowed 5-hits, 5-walks and 2-earned runs. He struck out 4. Rodebaugh recorded his first save of the season. Eadington (0-1) took the loss.
Caldwell raised his average to .375 with a 2-4 performance. He scored a run and had an RBI.
Gonzalez had a huge game for the RailCats, going 4-5 with a run scored and two doubles. Pugh had two hits and drove in two, and Newell also had two hits.
These two teams will continue their four-game series tomorrow night. Jeff Shields makes his 2016 debut for the St. Paul Saints after winning 13-games last season. Karl Triana goes to the mound for the Gary Southshore RailCats. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier