A clutch fourth inning by the Sioux Falls Canaries’ bats gave the home team everything they needed Friday night as they opened a three-game series versus the St. Paul Saints with a 4-3 victory in front of 4,263 fans at the Birdcage. Three runs in the fourth put the Canaries up for good after coming in down 2-1 and complemented a fantastic start from Sioux Falls starting pitcher Matt Wickswat (2-1), who permitted only two earned runs in 5.2 innings while striking out six.
“We did a good job,” said Canaries manager Steve Shirley, whose club was looking to recover from three-game losing streak. “We got some key hits and we got some good pitching. All the ingredients were in place.”
St. Paul wasted no time putting their mark on the scoreboard, starting the game with a lead-off double by Devin Thaut and snatching a 1-0 lead the very next at-bat on a single up the middle from Joe Bonfe. The small lead held until the bottom of the second, when Canaries centerfielder Chris Valencia sent a solo shot to left field that barely cleared the fence. Valencia enjoyed a rock solid performance at the plate Friday evening, going 3 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“He (Valencia) doesn’t quit,” said Shirley. “He goes out and plays hard. It was a real good night for him.”
The Saints retook the lead in the top of the fourth on a solo homer by Henry Wrigley, but it’d be the last lead the team from Minnesota would have all night. A throwing error to third base the very next half inning gave Chris Duffy a chance to touch home plate, tying the contest and preceding a single two at-bats later from Stephen Branca that gave his team a 3-2 advantage. Kevin Dultz doubled the lead to 4-2 the very next at-bat, giving Wickswat a cushion to work with and putting him in line for the W.
“He’s given us some solid innings and he gives us a chance to win. That’s the best we can expect from our starting pitchers,” said Shirley.
St. Paul got one more run on reliever Kye Winter, but it’d be too late for the Saints as a combined effort from John Brebbia and Alan DeRatt shut down the opposing club the rest of the way. DeRatt allowed a lone walk in a relatively uneventful top of the ninth to take home his eighth save of the year.
The Canaries will return to the Birdcage tomorrow night for the second game of the series against the Saints at 7:05 pm.
Courtesy: Sioux Falls Canaries Anthony Cola