Tony Caldwell Delivers Playoff Clinching RBI in Saints 1-0 Victory
It has been a tough August, as the St. Paul Saints have seen their comfortable 9.5-game lead over the Winnipeg Goldeyes slip to just one. Last night they were one-out away from clinching a playoff berth, but a two-run doubled spoiled the evening and left some thinking if this team was to a little snake bitten. That was not to be the case.
As the calendar switched to September the Saints had another opportunity to clinch a playoff berth and it came in the most dramatic of fashions. After Robert Coe threw seven outstanding shutout innings to blank the Goldeyes, it was a bases loaded pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Tony Caldwell that would clinch the deal, giving the Saints the 1-0 victory.
Coe was opposed by Mikey O’Brien and this was a classic pitchers’ duel. Neither pitcher was giving up anything on this night, as both starters kept it scoreless for seven-innings. Coe allowed just 3-hits, and only one Winnipeg player made it as far as second.
O’Brien’s only tough inning came in the fourth when Angelo Songco singled with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch. Tony Thomas then followed with a single to center. Songco rounded third and tried to score but, despite trying to run over the Winnipeg catcher, he was out.
In the eighth, Manager George Tsamis turned to Caleb Thielbar (5-2) and he tossed two outstanding innings of relief, striking out three.
Cameron McVey went two-thirds of an inning in the eighth for Winnipeg before turning the ball over to Eric Eadington. He closed out that inning and stayed on for the ninth.
Thomas was the first hitter of the inning and he drew a walk. Aaron Gretz then laid down a sacrifice to move Thomas to second. Breland Almadova then grounded a ball down to short, but the shortstop had no play and both runners were safe, leaving runners at the corners with one out. Alonzo Harris was then intentionally walked, setting up the climactic finish. Caldwell pinch hit and, on a 1-1 pitch, he drilled a ball deep to center. The ball was caught, but Thomas tagged and easily scored as the team erupted.
The victory ensured that the Saints would at least capture the Wild Card spot. Winnipeg fell to just one-half of one game ahead of Laredo for the Wild Card lead.
The Saints welcome the Lincoln Saltdogs for a four-game series starting Friday night. St. Paul can clinch the North Division title with a victory as their magic number is just one. Lincoln is one game behind in the Central Division.
By Robert Pannier