LINCOLN, NE – Cesar Valera and Nathaniel Maggio combined to collect seven hits and power the Lincoln Saltdogs (42-23) to an 8-4 series opening win over the St. Paul Saints (36-30) on Sunday afternoon.
2,709 fans watched at Haymarket Park as the Saltdogs won their eleventh straight home game. The Saltdogs have won 14 of their last 16 games to extend their Central Division lead to 3.5 games.
The game started in St. Paul’s favor. Nate Hanson pulled a two-run homer over the left field fence to give the Saints a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Saltdogs scored their first run in the second. Curt Smith walked and moved to third on a one-out hit by Maggio. Then, Randolph Oduber knocked Smith home with an infield single to make it a one-run game.
The next runs did not come until the bottom of the fifth inning. The Saltdogs took their first lead on a two-run shot by Valera. The homer was his fourth of the season and his first at Haymarket Park.
Saltdogs starting pitcher Cesilio Pimentel, who settled in after the first inning, ran out of gas in the sixth. He walked Anthony Gallas to bring Kes Carter to the plate. The former Fargo-Moorhead RedHawk blasted a two-run home run to right field to give the lead back to St. Paul.
Aside from the two long balls, Pimentel was masterful. The lefty allowed four runs on seven hits over 5.2 innings. He walked one batter compared to striking out a season-high 10 hitters.
The Saltdogs tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon Jacobs doubled to start the inning and scored on a base hit by Maggio.
Lincoln grabbed the lead for good in the seventh inning. Valera blasted a ground rule double with one out. Then, Curt Smith was intentionally walked and reliever Vinny Nittoli was inserted to face Jacobs. Nittoli got a strikeout before Maggio delivered the game-deciding blow. The first baseman belted a triple to the base of the center field wall that sent two runs in for a 6-4 lead.
Christian Ibarra hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to complete the scoring. It was his sixth dinger of the season.
Fabio Martinez earned the win by retiring all four batters he faced. J.R. Bunda notched a two-inning save by pitching perfect eighth and ninth innings.
The Saltdogs will try to tie their season-high and franchise record with a twelfth straight win at home on Monday night. It is scheduled to be a matchup of two of the top five pitchers in the league with Derek Gordon and Benji Waite tabbed to square off. First pitch at Haymarket Park is at 6:45 PM with coverage beginning at 6:15 PM on ESPN 1480 and saltdogs.com.
Tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling (402) 474-2255 or visiting Saltdogs.com. For the latest information on the Saltdogs follow the team on Facebook and Twitter/Instagram @saltdogsball.