St. Paul Saints Advance to Championship Series with 9-7 Victory
The St. Paul Saints have been the comeback kids all season long, and they got another chance to prove that in the biggest game of the season, twice battling back to win Game 5 of the North Division Championship series, defeating the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, 9-7. The Saints overcame a 5-0 deficit in the sixth and 7-5 deficit in the eighth, scoring four in the eighth to take their first lead of the game. The Saints bullpen was dominating in leading the team to victory.
Early on, each team had their opportunities to jump out in front. Brennan Metzger led off the contest with a base hit into center and moved to second on a Devan Ahart base hit. That put two on with one down, but Saints starter Chris Lee struck out both Chris Jacobs and Correlle Prime to get out of the frame.
St. Paul had a big opportunity in the bottom half of the frame. Dan Motl singled to start the inning and moved to third when Michael Lang followed with a base hit against RedHawks starter Ryan Williams. However, Lang tried to stretch his single into a double and was thrown out when he slid past the bag. Williams then got a lineout and a ground out, stranding the runner at third.
It was a scoreless contest through two but, in the third, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks would take a commanding lead. Metzger doubled to start the frame and Tim Colwell followed by beating out a sacrifice attempt to put runners at the corners with no one out. Lee then tossed a wild pitch that allowed Metzger to score and the RedHawks led 1-0. Devan Ahart followed by singling up the middle. That brought Colwell home and the lead was two. After a walk to Jacobs, Lee was able to finish off a nine pitch at bat by striking out Prime. Next up was Leobaldo, who drilled a ball off the wall in right-center, scoring Ahart to make it a three run lead.
That would be it for Lee. Mike Devine came on and got Wilfredo Gimenez to lineout, but Carlos Garcia worked the count full, then fouled off three pitches before singling into left, driving both runners home and the lead was suddenly five.
In a surprise move, Fargo-Moorhead Manager Jim Bennett opted to pull Williams after two, sending Michael Tamburino out for the third. He walked two in the frame but got out of the jam, then gave up two hits in the fourth, but would escape from that inning unscathed as well.
After giving up the hit in the third, Devine was brilliant. He did not allow another hit over the next three innings, helping to keep his team in the game. That proved to be huge as the St. Paul Saints rallied in the bottom of the sixth.
Brady Shoemaker led off the inning with a blast over the left field wall, his second homerun of the post-season. John Silviano followed with a base hit and Jeremy Martinez drew a walk to put two on with no one out. Bennett came out to talk to his hurler, opting to leave him in. Tamburino got ahead in the count to Josh Allen, 1-2, before working the count full. However, he would blow Allen away with an outside fastball before his night was over.
Joe Filomeno came on and was at 2-2 with Chesny Young when left fielder Brennan Metzger left the game with an injury. Nothing appeared to have happened, but he simply came out. Maybe that was a sign to come as Young followed with a base hit that brought Silviano home. Next up was Chris Baker, who had not recorded a hit in the series. He worked the count to 2-2 before blasting a three run homer just out of the reach of the new left fielder, Alex Boxwell, tying the score at five.
Neither team would score in the seventh, but the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks would get back on top in the eighth. Karch Kowalcyzyk came on for St. Paul and retired Jacobs, but Prime would beat out a slow roller for a base hit. That brought Pina to the plate, who drilled a 1-1 offering deep over the center field wall for his first homer of the postseason. That made it 7-5.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Saints would put together a rally of their own. Allen singled into left to start the inning and Young followed with a single down the line in right that sent Allen to third.
Bennett turned to his closer, bringing on Geoff Broussard, but his first pitch was over his catcher’s head, allowing Allen to score and Young to move to second, making this a one run game. Broussard then walked Baker, putting two on with no one out. Blake Schmit laid down a perfect sacrifice that moved both runners into scoring position. Dan Motl then got ahead 3-0 before the team opted to intentionally walk him, but this game was almost tied when Broussard’s pitch was way high, as Gimenez had to make a huge leaping catch to keep the ball from going to the backstop. With the bases loaded, Lang came to the plate. He fell behind 0-2 before grounding a tailor made double-play ball to Pina at short, but the ball rolled under his glove, allowing Lang to reach and two runners to come around to score as the St. Paul Saints suddenly had an 8-7 lead. Shoemaker followed with a sacrifice fly, driving home Baker and the Saints were three outs away from advancing to the American Association championship series.
Tanner Kiest came on in the ninth looking to close things out. He was brilliant, blowing away Joe Becht, Alex Boxwell, and Tim Colwell to earn the save.
The St. Paul Saints bullpen was huge, allowing two runs in 6.2 innings. Kowalczyk earned the victory and Tanner Kiest came on to earn the save. Chris Baker finished with two runs scored and three RBI. Chesny Young had three hits, scored two runs and added an RBI.
The Saints head for Sioux City to take on the Explorers starting Wednesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image by Kathy Stetz/Capture Twin Cities