Tony Caldwell Walk-Off Single Gives Saints League’s Top Record
For the second time in the last five days, St. Paul Saints catcher Tony Caldwell delivered a ninth inning walk-off RBI, this time a single over the left fielder’s head to give the Saints the victory. His last delivery, a walk-off sacrifice fly, defeated the Winnipeg Goldeyes and clinched the North Division for the team. This hit, an RBI-single in a 5-4 win, gave the Saints 61-victories and, coupled with two Wichita losses later in the day, gave the Saints the best record in the American Association and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
This was a day for the bullpen for the Saints, as Benji Waite got the start and he pitched incredibly well. The right-hander tossed four no-hit innings before being replaced in the fifth. Meanwhile, his team staked him to an early 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first, Brady Burzinski doubled and moved to third on a ground out by Ryan Cavan. Tony Thomas followed with a ground out that scored Burzynski and it was 1-0 Saints.
Robert Coe relieved in the fifth, but he could not hold the lead. With two down, Austin Darby broke up the no-hitter with a single, and Ryan Wiggins followed with a double that scored Darby all the way from first to tie the score.
Gene Escat relieved in the sixth and struggled during his one-inning. Robby Kuzdale led off the inning with a walk and then stole second. He moved to third on a Cesar Valera single and Juan Martinez then walked to load the bases. Rene Leverett followed by hitting a sacrifice fly that brought home Kuzdale, and Valera scored on a single by Austin Gallagher. Escat then struck out Jon Smith before walking Darby to reload the bases. Ryan Wiggins was then hit by a pitch to drive in the third run of the inning. Escat would finally get the final out of the frame, but not before the Saltdogs had plated three to take a 4-1 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth the Saints would get two of those runs right back. Ryan Cavan walked with one out and Thomas then reached on an error to put two on. David Bergin followed with a single to left that loaded the bases and Nate Hanson’s RBI single to right scored Cavan to make it 4-2. A fielder’s choice by Angelo Songco scored Thomas and it was a one-run game.
In the eighth St. Paul tied the score. Cavan walked to start the inning and Thomas followed with a sacrifice fly. Two batters later, Hanson blooped a single into right field scoring Cavan to tie the game.
The game headed to the ninth inning. After Ryan Rodebaugh retired the Saltdogs in the top of half of the inning, J.R. Bunda relieved for Lincoln in the bottom half. Vinny DiFazio greeted Bunda with a triple off the wall in the left-center field. Alonzo Harris came on to pinch run, but the speed was not necessary as Caldwell followed with a single over the left fielder’s head for the victory.
Later in the afternoon, the Wichita Wingnuts dropped both games of a double-header. That gave both teams a 61-39 record, but the Saints have the better out of division record, giving them the top record in the American Association. That means they will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Rodebaugh (3-2) earned the victory. Hanson was 3-4 with 2-RBI. Caldwell finished 1-2 with the game-winning RBI.
The Saints will face the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 will be Wednesday night in Winnipeg. A preview of the series will be posted on the Minor League Sports Report on Tuesday.
By Robert Pannier