Two Top Teams Square Off, Saints Prove Best In 5-4 Win Over ExplorersST. PAUL, MN June 22, 2015
TWO TOP TEAMS SQUARE OFF, SAINTS PROVE BEST IN 5-4 WIN OVER EXPLORERS
ST. PAUL, MN (June 22, 2015) – It wasn’t the most well played game of the season as the two top teams in the American Association squared off on Monday night at CHS Field. Vinny DiFazio, who was named the Pointstreak American Association Player of the Week for last week, picked up where he left off collecting four RBI, Kramer Sneed pitched 8.0 strong innings and the St. Paul Saints hung on for a 5-4 win over the Sioux City Explorers in front of 7,690 to improve to 25-5.
The Explorers entered play on Monday just two games behind the Saints for best overall record in the league and 7.0 games up in the Central Division. The Saints are undefeated in nine series this season and entered 10.0 games up in the North, but in the first the Saints were extremely sloppy. With one out Michael Lang reached on a fielding error by Joey Paciorek at third. Rene Tosoni then hit a pop up to the right of the pitcher’s mound, but no one took control and the ball fell in for a single. With two outs and runners at second and third Noah Perio Jr. hit a pop up to first baseman DiFazio, but he dropped it allowing two runs to score, giving the Explorers the early 2-0 lead.
The Saints, however, answered in the bottom of the inning as DiFazio atoned for the error. Steve Nikorak roped a triple to the left-center field gap and then scored on DiFazio’s single to make it 2-1. It was the sixth straight first inning the Saints scored a run and extended DiFazio’s hit streak to a career high 11 games.
The Saints tied it in the fourth when the Explorers gifted a run to the Saints. Angelo Songco led off with a double to left. With one out Songco scored when Paciorek’s grounder to short was thrown away by Perio Jr. at first tying the game at two.
In the fifth the Saints took the lead with two balls that didn’t get out of the infield and one that went over the wall. Mitch Elliott reached on an infield single to the pitcher. Nikorak then reached on an infield single to third. Up stepped DiFazio and he continued his hot streak homering to left, his seventh of the season, to give the Saints a 5-2 lead. DiFazio finished the night 2-4 with a home run and four RBI and has a multi-hit game in 10 straight.
Saints starting pitcher Kramer Sneed was masterful and allowed just two hits in innings two through seven. In the eighth he hit Matty Johnson with one out. Lang followed with a single to put runners at first and second. Then perhaps the play of the game occurred when Tosoni flew out to center, Johnson tagged at second and Elliott gunned him out attempting to advance for the inning ending double play. Sneed went 8.0 innings allowing two unearned runs on five hits while striking out two while improving to 5-1.
In the ninth the game got a little hairy. With one out closer Ryan Rodebaugh walked Perio Jr. He swiped second and scored on a double by Ryan Court to make it 5-3. With two outs Matt Koch hit a soft liner that went off the glove of a diving Nikorak at third, putting runners at the corners. Rodebaugh was removed for the left-handed pitcher Dylan Chavez to face the left-hand hitting Tim Colwell. Chavez unleashed a wild pitch allowing Court to score and putting the tying run in scoring position. Chavez, however, got Colwell to ground out to first to end the game.
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 Jeff Shields (5-0, 3.09) to the mound against Explorers RHP Patrick Johnson (4-0, 2.50). It is a Salute to the Heroes of the Internet. The game can be seen on the Saints Cable Network, cable access channels in the Twin Cities, heard on Club 1220 KLBB and inside the ballpark on 97.9 FM.