Tony Thomas, Mike Gilmartin Power St. Paul Saints to 9-5 Victory
The St. Paul Saints had a fairly significant turnover in the offseason, especially with the loss of American Association MVP Vinny DiFazio, but these new additions are quickly making a name for themselves in the 2016 season. Tony Thomas and Mike Gilmartin are two of the biggest contributors, and they both came up big Wednesday night as the Saints downed the Sioux Falls Canaries to claim sole possession of first-place in the North Division of the American Association.
The Saints got off to a great start in the top of the first when they plated three runs. Shawn Blackwell started for Sioux Falls and retired the first batter of the game, but a walk to Breland Almadova and a single by Willie Argo put two on with just one out. Angelo Songco was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, bringing Thomas to the plate. He took a called first strike, then ripped a double that scored both Almadova and Argo. Catcher Tony Caldwell followed with a single that scored Songco and it was quickly 3-0 Saints.
That would be the score until the fifth. Blackwell settled down and pitched quite well over the next five innings. Robert Coe (2-0) started for St. Paul, and he was brilliant through the first four frames. He retired the first eight batters of the game, before a two out walk in the third stopped the string. In the fourth, Sioux Falls was able to load the bases with two outs, but Coe calmly retired the final batter of the inning to keep it a 3-0 lead.
In the fifth, the Canaries would finally get on the board. Nolan Johnson started the inning with a single and moved to third on a double by Ozney Guillen, but he strayed a bit too far off of third and was gunned down on the relay to leave a runner at second with one out. Two batters later Blake Schmit hit his second homer of the year to make it a one-run game.
It was a tight game now, but the Saints were able to respond with a run right away. In the top of the sixth Blackwell got the first two batters out, but Gilmartin turned on a pitch and drilled it over the wall for his second homerun of the season.
In the seventh the Saints would add another insurance run. Brady Burzynski singled to get the inning started and moved to second on a single by Almadova. A throwing error allowed him to reach third and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Argo. That made the score 5-2.
In the top of the eighth, St. Paul plated two more runs. Thomas led off the frame and drilled his second home run of the season. Two batters later it was Gilmartin going deep again, his second of the game. He is the third Saints player with two homeruns in the same game this season, joining Nate Hanson and Angelo Songco.
In the ninth, Angelo Songco and Tony Thomas delivered back-to-back RBI triples to score the final two runs of the game for the Saints. It was a great game for Thomas who finished 3-5 with a run and 4-RBI. He fell just a single short of hitting for the cycle.
Argo went 2-3 with 2-runs and an RBI. He looks to be broken out of an early season slump. Gilmartin was 2-5 with the two solo homers.
Schmit finished 2-5 with a run and 2-RBI for Sioux Falls. Guillen was a perfect 3-3 with 2-runs and an RBI.
The Saints now head home to take on the Kansas City T-Bones in the first game of a four-game series starting Thursday night. Jeff Shields (1-0) will be going for St. Paul. This is the T-Bones first trip to CHS Field. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier