LINCOLN — After scoring four runs to take a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, the Saltdogs (14-23) needed a clutch 6-4-3 double play in the ninth to secure a 6-5 victory in the series opener over the St. Paul Saints (29-8) in front of 2,424 fans at Haymarket Park Tuesday night.
St. Paul capitalized on a lead-off walk and an error to plate two runs in the top of the ninth, and had runners on the corners with one out before Mackenzie King induced a tailor made 6-4-3 double play to end the game and earn the save.
After three eighth inning pitching changes for the Saints, Brian Joynt laced a two-out, two-run single to left to give the Saltdogs a 4-3 lead. Jeremy Hamilton and Mike Gilmartin followed with run-scoring hits to provide much-needed insurance.
Zach Arneson (1-0) allowed two runs in one-plus inning but picked up the win. Mikey Mehlich (0-1) yielded two runs in 1/3 of an inning to wear the loss.
Curt Smith went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI and has multi-hit games in each of his last four efforts. Joynt, Hamilton and Aaron Payne each provided two hits. Matt Forgatch went 1-for-3 with two runs and three stolen bases.
Conor Spink pitched two scoreless innings of middle relief after Jesse Smith lasted a season-low five innings.
The Saltdogs have now won three consecutive series openers, four straight one-run games at home, and six of seven overall.
Game two of the three-game home stand is Wednesday night at 6:35 p.m. RHP Zach Varce (0-3, 4.33) is set to face RHP Robert Coe (3-1, 2.67). Radio coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on KFOR 1240.
Get your tickets for Wiener Wednesday with $1 Fairbury Brand hot dogs now at www.saltdogs.com.