Harris Cleans Up With Walk-Off Home Run In 6-5 VictoryST. PAUL, MN June 13, 2016
Alonzo Harris is the leadoff man for the St. Paul Saints. For the first time in 116 games with the Saints Harris batted in the cleanup spot on Monday. With one swing of the bat he made manager George Tsamis look like a genius as he hit a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Saints defeated the Sioux City Explorers 6-5 on Monday night at CHS Field. The win was the sixth consecutive for the Saints and helped them improve to 18-8 on the season, the best record in the American Association.
Entering the ninth the Saints had not collected a hit since the fifth inning. Harris was 0-2 with a sacrifice fly and a walk. On the mound was Rob Wort, who had a 1.79 ERA with the Explorers in 2015 and began 2016 at Double-A with the Red Sox. Wort had already retired the side in order in the eighth and struck out Nate Hanson to lead off the ninth. On the first pitch to Harris he hit a high fly to right-center that kept carrying and cleared the wall for the walk-off home run. It was Harris’ fifth of the season and the first walk-off win of the season for the Saints. The Saints managed just two walk-off wins in 2015, both coming in a 48 hour span in their last homestand of the season.
The Saints looked like they were going to run away and hide as they put up four runs in the first. With one out Tanner Vavra hit a ball that appeared to hit the railing over the right field wall for a home run, but was ruled a double. With two outs Harris walked which put runners at the corners. Tony Thomas extended his hitting streak to 25 with an infield single to short that scored Vavra to make it 1-0. Thomas is just three hits shy of the all-time franchise record of 28 set by Cory Harris from May 27-June 25, 2003. It was also the ninth straight game he’s driven in a run, extending his career high. His previous career high was seven. Willie Argo then smacked a towering three-run homer to straightaway center, his third of the season, to make it 4-0.
In the second the Saints made it 5-0 when Breland Almadova led off with a walk and moved to second on a single. A fielder’s choice put runners at the corners with one out. Harris’ sacrifice fly scored Almadova.
Saints ace Mark Hamburger managed to get two double plays in the first three innings to avoid trouble, but in the fourth the Explorers finally got to him. With one out Nate Samson singled and Tommy Mendonca hit a two-run homer to right, his fourth of the season, to make it 5-2.
In the sixth the Explorers tied it as Mendonca reached on a one out single. Jarek Cunningham doubled him to third. A walk loaded the bases and Tim Colwell made it 5-3 with an RBI single to right. Hamburger then got Ralph Henriquez to hit a tapper in front of the plate that catcher Aaron Gretz grabbed and slid to tag the plate ahead of Cunningham for the second out. Derrick Robinson, however, tied it with a two-run single.
It stayed that way until the ninth because of the bullpens. Cody Wheeler pitched a perfect inning of relief while Ryan Rodebaugh got the win with 2.0 hitless innings of relief while striking out three.
The same two teams meet in game two of the three game series on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. The Saints send RHP Robert Coe (3-0, 3.16) to the mound while the Explorers are TBA. The first 1,000 fans will receive an ugly beanie sweater giveaway. The game can be seen on the Saints Cable Network, cable access channels in the Twin Cities, and heard on Club 1220 KLBB.