St. Paul Saints Go Wild in Walk-Off Win, 8-7
It was a night that seemed like the St. Paul Saints did not have their very best, but when it mattered most they came through in a big way, downing the Gary Southshore Railcats 8-7. The victory was secured with a ninth inning rally that saw the club score two runs against closer Andy Loomis.
The RailCats were able to get to Saints starter Jeff Shields early. In the top of the first Shields walked the first two batters he faced, and it looked like he may be hurt. After a visit from the trainer, Jose Sermo singled home the first run for Gary and Dustin Geiger made it 2-0 with a single of his own.
The St. Paul Saints responded right away in the bottom of the first. Sam Maus lined a single with one out and Ryan Cavan followed with the first of two doubles on the day. Vinny DiFazio followed with a two-run shot off of Fernando Gonzalez to give the Saints the lead. For DiFazio it was his 17th home run of the season, and moved him alone atop the American Association RBI leaders.
Suddenly trailing by a run Gary put two more runs on the board in the top of the second. Michael Vaughn doubled to begin the inning and scored when Matt Hibbert singled. Elbert Devarie drove Hibbert home when he reached on an error and the RailCats were ahead again, 4-3.
That is where the score would remain until the top of the fifth when Gary Southshore extended their lead to two runs. Sermo singled with one out and scored when Geiger doubled just out of the reach of Saints center fielder Alonzo Harris to make it 5-3.
In the top of the seventh Kevin Cravey relieved for St. Paul, but the visitors added another insurance run against the reliever. Elbert Devarie hit a ball up the middle that Saints shortstop Ryan Cavan was able to knock down but had no chance to nail Devarie at first. Sermo followed with a double into right field and it was 6-3.
This time the St. Paul Saints responded in the bottom half of the seventh, and the rally came with two outs. Gonzalez retired the first two hitters, but Maus kept the inning alive with a single. John Kovalik relieved for Gary and after Cavan worked the count to 2-2, he ripped a pitch over the right field wall to make the score 6-5. It was Cavan’s first home run in a Saints uniform.
The visitors added another insurance run in the top of the eighth to extend their lead back to two. Vaughn singled with one out and moved to second on a walk to Anthony Cheky. A walk to Hibbert loaded the bases, and Metzger’s sacrifice fly scored Vaughn to make it 7-5.
In the bottom of the eighth Angelo Songco crushed his 17th home run of the season to pull the Saints back within a run. That was huge because it helped to setup the dramatic ninth inning.
Mike Zouzalik pitched in the ninth for St. Paul and he was just brilliant. Zouzalik (4-1) got a ground out to first to start the inning, then blew the next two hitters away on seven combined pitches to keep it a one-run game. That brought on the dramatic bottom of the ninth.
Maus got it started by drawing a five pitch walk. The Saints second baseman had a huge day, going 1-3 with 3 runs scored and 2 walks. Cavan followed with a single that moved Maus to second. He also had a huge day at the plate, going 4-5 with 2 doubles, a home run, 2 runs scored and 3 RBI. One of his doubles missed being a home run by about 12 inches.
With first and second and no one out, DiFazio grounded to third in what looked like it may be a double-play but Cavan came in hard breaking up the opportunity. That made it first and third with one out. Songco followed with a single into right field that scored Maus to tie the game. DiFazio raced for third and Songco took second on the throw setting up what looked like the inevitable. The RailCats chose to walk David Espinosa to load the bases. Wille Argo was the next batter. He worked the count full, and fouled off two pitches to stay alive. On the eight pitch of the at-bat, Loomis’ pitch was in the dirt and DiFazio raced home with the winning run.
The walk-off win was the first such victory in CHS Field’s short history. It gave the St. Paul Saints their club record 71st win of the year, and was their sixth straight victory.
Adding to the offensive heroics was Songco, who was 2-5 with a run and 2 RBI. DiFazio was 1-5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. The two sluggers now are tied for the American Association lead in RBI with 82, and both are also tied for the club’s record for RBI in a season.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
By Robert Pannier