Former Husker Dan Johnson Dominates In Old Stomping Grounds As Saints Defeat Saltdogs 8-1ST. PAUL, MN July 28, 2016
The last time Dan Johnson stepped into the ballpark at Haymarket Park it was as a hitter for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2001. On Thursday night he was a 36-year-old knuckleball pitcher who delivered his finest outing of his career. Johnson tossed 7.0 shutout innings and the St. Paul Saints took down the Lincoln Saltdogs, in a battle of first place teams, 8-1. The win improved the Saints to 45-21 and increased their lead in the North to 9.0 games on the idle Winnipeg Goldeyes.
Johnson looked like he was in for a shaky night when he gave up a one out single to Luis Alen in the first and then hit the next two batters. Perhaps the turning point in his evening was when he got Jon Smith to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning keeping the Saints up 1-0 after an inning of play.
In the third Johnson gave up a one out double to Robby Kuzdale and, with two outs, walked Brandon Jacobs, but Rene Leveret popped out to end the inning.
In the fourth Johnson walked the leadoff man Smith before retiring the next three hitters. It was part of 11 consecutive hitters retired by Johnson.
In the seventh Johnson retired the first two hitters before giving up back-to-back singles to Ryan Wiggins and Dainer Moreira, but Kuzdale struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. Johnson went 7.0 shutout innings allowing four hits while walking two and striking out three as he picked up his second win of the season. It was the longest outing in his young knuckleball career.
The Saints got him run support from the beginning as they faced former Major Leaguer Shairon Martis. Alonzo Harris led off the game with a single to left, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. He would score on a single by Tony Thomas to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth Thomas doubled off the left field wall and, two batters later, Trever Adams made it 3-0 with a two-run homer, his fourth of the season.
The Saints then took advantage of some shaky Saltdogs defense. In the fifth Aaron Gretz led off with a single. Sam Maus sacrificed him to second and reached when Martis’ throw went down the right field line which also sent Gretz to third. A sacrifice fly from Harris made it 4-0 Saints.
In the sixth Thomas reached on a throwing error by the shortstop Moreira. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and scampered to third when the throw by the catcher Wiggins went into centerfield. An infield single by Angelo Songco scored Thomas to make it 5-0.
The Saints got back-to-back bases loaded walks to Tony Caldwell and Tanner Vavra in the eighth to make it 7-0 and finished the scoring with an RBI double from Breland Almadova in the ninth.
The same two teams meet Friday night at Haymarket Park in game two of the four game series. Saints RHP Robert Coe (8-2, 4.40) attempts to break the franchise record for wins as he goes to the mound against Saltdogs RHP Casey Barnes (3-4, 5.19). The game can be heard on Club 1220 KLBB.