Finishing With Style, Saints Walk-Off in Game 100 Against Saltdogs 5-4ST. PAUL, MN September 5, 2016
With a playoff spot already secured going into the final game of the regular season, the St. Paul Saints put themselves into a position to claim home field advantage throughout the playoffs on Monday afternoon with a walk-off 5-4 victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs. Tony Caldwell delivered his second walk-off RBI in five days to push the Saints to the win in front of 7,570 at CHS Field, improving the Saints record to 61-39. They will now wait to see the result of the Wichita Wingnut’s (61-38) second game of a doubleheader to potentially claim the best record in the American Association.
Tied at four in the bottom of the ninth inning, Vinny DiFazio tripled to left field to start the frame. Alonzo Harris came in to pinch run, but the league-leader in stolen bases didn’t need to rush to come in and score the winning run when Tony Caldwell singled just over the head of left fielder Jon Smith, allowing Harris to easily come home and give the Saints a 5-4 victory.
Trailing 4-3 late in the ball game, the Saints were able to pull even in the bottom of the eighth. After a leadoff walk to Ryan Cavan, reliever Ryan Davis was replaced by Lindsey Caughel, the American Association Pitcher of the Year. Cavan was sacrificed to second by Tony Thomas, at which point Breland Almadova came in to pinch run for Cavan. With two outs, Nate Hanson looped an opposite field single into left to score Almadova and tie the game at four. Hanson finished the day 3-4 with two RBI.
Initially it was the Saltdogs that were able to overcome a deficit. Behind 1-0 in the fifth, Lincoln got to Robert Coe, who was making a relief appearance before the playoffs, with two outs in the inning. After a groundout and a fly out, Austin Darby singled to left field and Ryan Wiggins doubled him home to tie the game at one.
In the sixth, Lincoln sent nine men to the plate against reliever Gene Escat. The Saints right-hander started the inning by surrendering two walks and a single to load the bases. Rene Leveret hit a sacrifice fly to right field that plated a run to give the Saltdogs a 2-1 lead. Gallagher then singled to left to make it 3-1. After a strikeout of Smith, Escat walked Darby to load the bases and hit Wiggins with a pitch, forcing in a run to make it 4-1.
The Saints responded in the bottom of the sixth with a pair of runs. With one out, Cavan walked and Thomas reached on an error by Saltdogs third baseman Juan Martinez. David Bergin followed with a solid single to left to load the bases and Hanson delivered an RBI single to right to make it 4-2. Angelo Songco then hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Thomas to make it 4-3.
As they have done so many times this season, the Saints opened the scoring in the first inning. Brady Burzynski snuck an opposite double inside the left field line and advanced to third on a groundout by Cavan. Thomas then grounded out to short, allowing Burzynski to race in to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Making a spot start for the Saints, right-hander Benji Waite was exceptional. In 4.0 innings of work, Waite did not allow a hit and struck out six batters in his first start of the season. The lone base runner that Waite surrendered was a two-out walk to Martinez in the first inning. He finished his outing by retiring the final 10 batters he faced.
Reliever Cody Wheeler kept the Saints in the ball game, pitching 2.0 scoreless innings and striking out two while not giving up a hit.
Ryan Rodebaugh received the win after pitching the ninth inning, giving up two hits and striking out three.
The Saints will have the day off on Tuesday and will travel to either Winnipeg or Sioux City for the first two games of the American Association Divisional playoffs, with game one on Wednesday night. The Saints will send RHP Mark Hamburger (12-6, 3.29) to the mound. The start time for the game is still to be determined, but the game can be heard on Club 1220 KLBB.