Saints, Explorers Split Double-Header; Thomas’ Hit Streak Ends at 26
The Sioux City Explorers rode the coattails of a huge sixth inning in the first game of Wednesday’s double-header to take Game 1, 8-6. However, the St. Paul Saints came back in Game 2, powered by a new acquisition to win 7-1 and split the twin bill.
In Game 1, it was a huge sixth inning that sent the Sioux City Explorers to the victory. Six-runs in the frame gave the Explorers the 8-2 lead, and then they withstood a fervent ninth inning to defeat the Saints 8-6.
St. Paul took the lead in the bottom of the second when Angelo Songco led off the inning with a towering homerun. His sixth homer of the season staked the Saints to a 1-0 lead.
The Explorers tied the score in the top of the fourth against Saints starter Robert Coe. Noah Perio singled to start the inning and moved to second when Nate Samson followed with a single of his own. A sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position and Perio scored when Jarek Cunningham hit a ground ball to short. Both runners attempted to advance, but Tanner Vavra made a head’s up play, gunning the runner at third for the fielder’s choice. Perio’s run tied the score however.
St. Paul retook the lead right away in the bottom half of the inning. Sioux City starter Dylan Rhenault retired the first two hitters of the inning, but then gave up a double to Willie Argo. Vavra was intentionally walked and the recently signed Chad Christensen followed with a single to load the bases. Tony Caldwell then drew a four pitch walk to score Argo and it was 2-1 Saints.
The Explorers got that run right back in the top of the fifth. Tim Cowell walked to get it stared. Ralph Henriquez attempted to lay down a sacrifice, but Caldwell made a quick play from behind the plate and fired to second to get the lead runner. The ball sailed on him however, and into center field for an error. Cowell moved to third and scored on a fielder’s choice to knot the game at two.
In the top of the sixth, the Sioux City Explorers took advantage of back-to-back walks to Tommy Mendonca and Brendan Slattery to start the inning. Matty Johnson followed with a double to score Mendonca and the Explorers had their first lead of the game. Cowell then followed with a shot to right-center that looked like it may be caught, but it hit off the wall for a double. Only Slattery could score, with Johnson moving to third. However, he would score on a double to center by Michael Lang. An error by Alonzo Harris allowed Henriquez to score as well to extend the lead to five. Perio’s RBI single brought home Lang to make the score 8-6.
St. Paul was down, but clearly not out. In the bottom of the seventh they mounted a rally. Caldwell led off the inning with his second homer of the season. Brady Burzynski then walked. Trevor Bayless was able to retire the next two hitters, but Songco walked to keep the game alive. That brought Tony Thomas to the plate, who was not only looking to extend the game but his 25-game hitting streak as well. Thomas took two first pitches for balls, then drilled one the opposite way over the right field fence for a three-run homerun. It was his ninth homer of the season.
That was enough for Manager Steve Montgomery, who turned to Connor Overton. He retired the final batter of the game to record his fifth save of the season. Rhenault (1-0) earned the victory, and Coe (3-1) took his first loss of the season.
In Game 2, it was the Explorers that took the early lead, but the St. Paul Saints came charging back to claim victory.
Sioux Falls took the lead in the top of the second inning. Johnson walked to start the frame and then stole second base. A sacrifice moved him to third and he scored on a double by Ralph Henriquez.
The Saints got that run back in the bottom of the third, plus two more. A walk to Caldwell got it started and he moved to third on a double by Christensen. Aaron Gretz then ripped a double down the right field line that scored both runners and gave St. Paul the 2-1 lead. A sacrifice fly by Argo brought home Gretz and the Saints had the two-run lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, St. Paul extended the lead. Caldwell got the inning started again, this time with a single. He moved to second when Christensen singled and both runners moved up on a passed ball. Two batters later Breland Almadova singled to score Caldwell and make it a 4-1 game.
Into the fifth the scored remained the same, but in the bottom of the inning the Saints would add one more. A single by Songco got the inning going and he moved to third on a double by Argo. An RBI single by Christensen scored Songco.
The final two runs for the Saints would come in the bottom of the sixth. Vavra singled with one out and moved to second on a single by Nate Hanson. A fielder’s choice put Songco at first and an error on the play allowed Vavra to score. Songco scored later in the inning on a passed ball.
The Saints walked away with the 7-1 victory in the back end of the double-header, but Thomas’ hit streak finally came to an end as he was 0-3. Christensen had quite a debut for the team, going 1-3 in the first game and 3-4 in the night cap.
Both of these teams are off tomorrow. The Saints head north to play Winnipeg starting Friday night. Sioux City heads home to start a six-game homestand.
By Robert Pannier