LINCOLN — Jon Smith blasted another pinch-hit walk-off homer as the Saltdogs (49-43) toppled the St. Paul Saints (57-36) 3-2 to vault back into first place in front of 3,788 fans on the Haymarket Park finale Sunday evening.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Juan Martinez worked a one-out walk against All Star closer Ryan Rodebaugh.
After taking a called strike, Smith launched an opposite-field two-run homer to give Lincoln the final at-bat victory. The 27 year-old from Niagara Falls, N.Y. also hit a pinch-hit walk-off homer on August against Sioux City.
Lindsey Caughel, the league’s ERA leader, turned in eight sterling frames, allowing just a run on three hits with nine strikeouts.
St. Paul took the 2-1 lead on a sacrifice fly, capitalizing on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth.
Lincoln tied the game on a two-out single from Juan Martinez in the seventh.
Tony Thomas belted a solo shot in the fifth to make it 1-0 St. Paul.
The Saltdogs lead Gary by 1/2 game and Sioux City by one full game with eight to play.
Lincoln went 25-25 at home in the regular season, and attendance increased by more than five-percent from 2015.
Saltdogs manager Bobby Brown was ejected in the top of the ninth inning for arguing a play at the plate.
Lincoln begins it’s final eight-game road trip Monday night at 7:05 p.m. in Sioux City. Radio coverage begins at 6:35 p.m. on KFOR FM 103.3/1240 AM.