LINCOLN — Luis Alen and Curt Smith each homered in the ninth but the St. Paul Saints (57-34) hung on for a 4-3 win over the Saltdogs (47-43) in front of 5,079 fans at Haymarket Park Friday night.
Lincoln now trails Gary by 1/2 game for the Central lead, but there is a three-way tie for first in the loss column with Sioux City.
Alen’s one-out shot to left put Lincoln on the board, and Curt’s two-run blast two batters later made it 4-3. St. Paul’s All Star closer Ryan Rodebaugh struck out the final two hitters to end the game and earn his 23rd save.
Former Texas Ranger RHP Mark Hamburger (12-4) pitched 8 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts to earn the win.
Ryan O’Sullivan (4-4) pitched eight, allowing just two earned with six strikeouts to suffer the loss. St. Paul tallied an unearned run in the eighth which proved to be the difference.
Smith finished the game 2-for-4 with his career-high extending 17th home run.
David Bergin (17) and Nate Hanson (12) each homered for the North-leading Saints.
Game two of the final three-game series is Saturday night at 6:35 p.m. RHP Shairon Martis is expected to face RHP Robert Coe. Radio coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on KFOR FM 103.3/1240 AM.