The St. Paul Saints haven’t made it to the American Association Championship Series since 2011 when they took a 2-0 lead against Grand Prarie only to lose three straight games to lose the title. They got a step closer to returning on Thursday night, beating the Gary SouthShore RailCats 8-2 at CHS Field.
The game was tied at two entering the fourth inning, where the Saints piled on the runs. Joey Wong got the inning started with a one-out single and advanced to second on a single from Max Murphy. Kyle Barrett picked up his first RBI of the game on a single to center field.
That spelled the end of the night for RailCats pitcher Lars Liguori. He was replaced by Gabe Perez, who didn’t fare much better, walking the first batter he faced then getting Brady Shoemaker to fly out to left field, though it did allow Murphy to come across the plate.
Zach Walters, who was a midseason acquisition from the Kansas City T-Bones, doubled to bring in Barrett. The next batter, Dante Bichette Jr., singled to left field to bring in two runs and effectively clear the bases. That was where the inning ended, as Dan Motl struck out swinging for the third out.
Motl was hit by a pitch to lead off the seventh. What happened next is something straight out of a Little League game. Perez threw over to first to try and pick off Motl, but his throw got away from first baseman Alex Crosby. Motl advanced to second, then advanced to third on a stolen base and an error by the shortstop. He scored a short time later on Wong’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Those runs were more than enough for Saints starting pitcher Eddie Medina, who had a strong outing. He lasted seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs, both of which came in the first inning, and seven strikeouts.
Mike Devine pitched a clean eighth and Zack Jones finished the job in the ninth to put the Saints just one win away from returning to the League Championship Series, where they would face either the Kansas City T-Bones or the Sioux City Explorers. That series is tied at one game apiece.
The Saints will look to finish the sweep on Friday night at the US Steel Yard in Gary. Neither team has announced who will pitch. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. Game 4 will be Saturday in Gary if needed, with a potential fifth game Sunday at the US Steel Yard.