St. Paul Saints Series Sweep Separates Squad in Standings
The St. Paul Saints were forced to play a double-header on Sunday after Saturday night’s game was rained out. The Laredo Lemurs were probably wishing the rest of the series was washed away, as the Saints pitching staff allowed just one run in the two games, winning Game 1 behind a near no-hitter by Robert Coe, and shutting out the Lemurs in Game 2, 8-0.
In Game 1, the St. Paul Saints took the lead in the top of the second behind four hits and a key error by Laredo starter Greg Holle. Back-to-back singles by Mike Kvasnicka and Angelo Songco put runners at the corners with no one out. Vince DiFazio hit a tough grounder to first that he was able to beat out, scoring Kvasnicka on the play. Steve Nikorak then attempted to lay down a bunt, but an error by Holle allowed everyone to be safe, loading the bases for Anthony Phillips. He lined a sharp single to right, scoring Songco, and it was 2-0 Saints.
Holle was struggling, but he followed the second run scoring with a piece of pitching mastery. The right-hander got Alonzo Harris to pop out into shallow right field, then struck out Sam Maus and Willie Argo to end the inning. It could have been so much worse, but Holle showed why he is one of the better starters in the American Association.
The two runs were plenty enough for Coe who dominated Laredo through the first five innings. The right-hander allowed a two-out walk in the first, then retired the next 13 batters. The Lemurs had no answer for Coe, until the sixth inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, just six outs away from a no-hitter, Coe walked the lead-off hitter, Luke Bailey, before retiring Tyler Forney. That brought Dvontrey Richardson to the plate who hit a dying duck that landed just out of the reach of Harris in center field for the first hit of the game. A ground ball moved both runners into scoring position setting up the play of the game.
With first base empty, manager George Tsamis opted to pitch to the hot hitting Abel Nieves, who lined a single to center field. Bailey came in to score, and Richardson rounded third looking for home. Harris retrieved the ball and made a perfect throw to the plate to gun down Richardson to preserve the 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, clinging to the one-run lead, Dylan Chavez relieved for Coe and struck out Matt Padgett. Tsamis then sent in Ryan Rodebaugh to close it out. The right-hander retired the first batter he faced, before giving up a base hit to Tony Delmonico. With the tying run on first, Byron Wiley worked the count full, fouling off two pitches to stay alive before flying out to left field to end the game.
Coe (1-0) finished with 2 hits and 2 walks allowed in 6 innings of work. The one run was earned against him and he struck out 3. Rodebaugh recorded his second save of the season. Holle (0-2) was the tough luck loser. He allowed just 6 hits and 2 runs in 6 innings while striking out seven. He is winless this season, despite posting a 2.75 ERA.
Ian Gac went hitless for the first time this season, ending his 8-game hitting streak.
In Game 2, the St. Paul Saints got another outstanding pitching performance, plus a lot of run support on route to an 8-0 win. While Game 1 was a tight, nail-biter throughout, this contest was over by the fourth.
It was a scoreless tie after two, as Saints starter Pedro Hernandez and Lemurs hurler Scott Garner kept their opponents off the scoreboard. In the third, St. Paul scored their first run since the second inning of Game 1. With one out Nikorak walked and moved to second on a passed ball. Phillips singled to score Nikorak and St. Paul was up 1-0.
In the fourth the Saints plated four. With one out Gac singled and moved to third on a double by Kvasnicka. Songco walked and two batters later Nikorak singled scoring Gac and Kvasnicka. Phillips followed with a base hit that plated Songco, and Mitch Elliot added another run when he singled to center field to score Nikorak. That made the score 5-0 and, with the way Hernandez was pitching, the score might as well have been a 1,000,000 to 0.
It wasn’t a million, but the Saints added three more in the sixth. Gac doubled with one out, and Kvasnicka drove him home with a single to center field. Two batters later Joey Paciorek hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot that made the score 8-0.
Hernandez had pitched quite well through five. Tsamis removed the lefty after he had allowed 3 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings of work. Hernandez had struck out seven but, more importantly, he had not allowed a run.
With the large lead, the St. Paul manager decided to give two of his struggling relievers a chance to get their grove back. Alan Oaks and Chris Peacock each pitched a scoreless inning, with Peacock finishing out the game.
Hernandez (1-1) evened his record for St. Paul. Garner (1-1) took the loss.
Gac responded to the hitless Game 1 with three hits in Game 2. Kvasnicka also had three hits, and improved his average to .429.
By Robert Pannier