St. Paul Saints defeat Gary Southshore Railcats on opening day
Mark Hamburger throws a pitch during Thursday's game. Photo via St. Paul Saints/Facebook

St. Paul Saints defeat Gary Southshore Railcats on opening day

Mark Hamburger went seven strong innings for the Saints in his return to St. Paul.

Stevie Larson

The St. Paul Saints defeated the Gary Southshore Railcats 8-3 on Thursday night to open the season, thanks to a strong outing from Mark Hamburger and Nate Hanson, who went 3-4 on the night.

The game started with neither team being able to get a hit until the top of the third when the Railcats got a lead-off single from Jaime Del Valle, who was retired on a fielder’s choice. Hamburger, the Saints starting pitcher, was able to pitch around that, as despite a walk, he held Gary scoreless in the third inning.

The Saints had the bases loaded with two outs in their half of the third, thanks to two errors and a walk, but were unable to push a run across, as Tony Thomas struck out swinging to end the inning.

After Hamburger threw a scoreless fourth, Nate Hanson stepped up to the plate and led off the bottom of the inning with a single, the first hit of the game for the Saints. Mike Gilmartin then walked, and they both advanced a base when Tanner Vavra hit a sacrifice bunt. Tony Caldwell then hit an infield single to third base to load the bases for Alonzo Harris, who hit a two-RBI single to center field to give St. Paul the lead.

The teams lineup for the national anthem before the game. 
Photo via St. Paul Saints/Twitter

They weren’t done there, as Breland Almadova followed with an RBI single to the pitcher on a play that was supposed to be a squeeze bunt that scored Caldwell to put the Saints up 3-0. Willie Argo than stepped up and again the Saints pulled the suicide squeeze, which worked, as Argo was retired, but Harris came in to score the fourth run of the inning. The inning ended when Angelo Songco struck out to end the inning.

The Railcats got one run in the top of the fifth when Tillman Pugh led off with a walk. He advanced to third when Del Valle singled, then scored when Cameron Newell singled to right. Hamburger was able to recover to get out of the inning with no more runs allowed, preserving a three-run lead for the Saints.

The Saints added two more in the fifth inning when Hanson got a one-out single, which was followed by Gilmartin hitting a home run to right field, the first of the season for the Saints, which put them up 6-1.

That was all that Hamburger needed, as he went seven innings, giving up three hits and striking out five batters.

It was fun returning to St. Paul,” Hamburger said after the game. “I am glad that I am able to spend the summer back with my family after two years being away.”

"Mark pitched great," manager George Tsamis said. "It was great for him to be back, and he should be a great asset for our team this season."

The Saints tacked on two more in the seventh when Hanson got a two-out single. He advanced to third when Gilmartin doubled, which set up Vavra to single to left center field, scoring both runs, and putting the Saints up 8-1.

The Railcats Got two in the eighth, as Newell led off with a walk from new Saints pitcher Caleb Thielbar. Matt Hibert than hit a single, which advanced Newell to third. Jeremy Hamilton then singled to center field, scoring Newell, and sending Hibert to third base. A few batters later, Pugh hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Hibert, and cutting the St. Paul lead to five.

The Saints didn’t score in the eighth and sent Ryan Rodebaugh onto the mound for the ninth. Rodebaugh got two strikeouts and a groundout to end the game and give St. Paul the opening day victory.

Quick hits

- This was the second season opener at CHS Field for the Saints and the 24th all-time opener. Entering the game, they were 11-12 in season openers.

- This was the 13th time the Saints opened the season at home, with a career record of 6-6 in home season openers.

- Robert Coe, who is in his second season with the Saints, will start on Friday night for the Saints. Last year he was 12-3 with a 3.12 ERA. Gary will respond with Eric Eadington.