The Kansas City T-Bones and pitcher Tommy Collier overcame an early 3-0 deficit as the T-Bones pulled within one win of their first American Association crown with a 7-3 win over the St. Paul Saints on Friday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Game 3 of the best-of five championship series.
The T-Bones lead the series 2-1.
Todd Cunningham launched two home runs, including a sixth-inning grand slam that capped off a decisive six-run rally.
St. Paul got off to a fast start in the top of the first against Collier. After a strikeout to start the game, Kyle Barrett turned on a 2-0 fastball and launched it well over the wall in right-center field for the first run of the contest.
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The Saints tacked on two more in the second as Joey Wong lined an RBI single to center, with Nathaniel Maggio sliding in ahead of Todd Cunningham’s throw. Wong advanced to second on the throw and scored two batters later on Barrett’s bloop single that made it 3-0.
Kansas City had a bases-loaded threat in the second extinguished by a double-play ball, but Cunningham got the T-Bones on the board with a solo homer into the bullpen in left-center.
On the mound, Collier settled down, retiring 10 of 11 hitters at one point. Kansas City manager Joe Calfapietra credited Collier’s resilience.
“He gave up a couple runs early and battled, and threw up zero after zero,” Calfapietra said. “He gave us an opportunity to let us score some runs.”
Those runs would come in a sixth inning avalanche off the St. Paul bullpen.
Against St. Paul reliever Evan Mitchell, Adrian Nieto led off with a double, then scored two batters later on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Lago, beating the throw home from the shortstop Wong.
After a strikeout, Beck Wheeler entered the game and issued a ten-pitch walk to Phillips to load the bases. Ryan Brett smacked the eighth pitch of the at-bat into left field to tie the game. However, Lago would be gunned down at the plate trying to give the T-Bones the lead.
It would not matter, though, as Davis drew an eight-pitch walk to reload the bases, then Cunningham launched a fly ball just over the glove on Saints right fielder Max Murphy onto the right field berm. The shot gave the former big-leaguer his first career multi-home run contest and most importantly, gave the T-Bones a 7-3 lead.
Cunningham credited the scouting report for getting the right pitch to hit.
“(Wheeler had) been using that split-change a lot, and I decided to take a chance and sit on it,” Cunningham said. “It worked out in my favor.”
Collier would twirl two more scoreless innings to finish with eight innings of three-run ball, then hand off the baton to Cody Winiarski, who fired a scoreless ninth to finish off the victory.
One win away from an American Association championship, Calfapietra is treating Saturday night’s contest like any other.
“We’re going to have to win a ballgame,” he said bluntly.
The T-Bones will attempt to win that ballgame Saturday night at 7:05 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.