Saints split with Pioneers

It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the Tiffin Saints got what they needed from Saturday’s second game – a split in a doubleheader with Adrian.

Behind four hits and two RBIs from Shane Klemcke and a solid start from pitcher Steve Landell, the Saints shook off a 7-3 Game 1 loss to beat the Pioneers, 11-1.

The Saints had some help.

Adrian committed six errors in Game 2, and the Saints took advantage to turn the seven-inning affair into a blowout.

One sequence in the second summed things up for the Pioneers.

Tiffin shortstop Ernesto Punales reached when Adrian keystone Ray Delvalle was unable to field Punales’ grounder. Punales then went all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw by Adrian pitcher Chris Chigas, then scored when the throw in was wild.

“It’s tough to win a ballgame if you make six errors, no matter what team you are,” Klemcke said. “If you’re the New York Yankees and you make six errors, you’re going to have a tough time winning the game, and we made the most of those mistakes.”

The Saints got two runs in the first when Klemcke hit a two-out, two-run single.

As it turned out, that was all they needed, due to Landell.

The Saints starter went six innings, allowing his only run in the third when Jacob Inbody hit an RBI single. The Pioneers were poised for more, loading the bases with one out. But Landell got Adrian’s Steve Rogers to ground to short, starting an inning-ending double play.

It was the first of two double plays Landell induced.

Landell said the early runs helped him out.

“It’s just great when you come out on the field and the offense just picks you up right away,” Landell said. “It’s nice to pitch with a lead; you feel much more comfortable.”

The Saints struggled defensively as well, making four miscues. But Landell was able to pick them up. He struck out two, allowed four hits and walked two.

Offensively for the Saints, the top two hitters in the order – Chris Winder and Evan King – combined for five hits, five runs and three RBIs in the second game. Andruw Azzopardi, fresh off a two-game suspension, had two hits and drove in two runs.

“The good thing was, in the second game, we were able to capitalize on their mistakes,” Tiffin manager Ryan Parent said. “It helped us. We made them have to make plays, some of them didn’t make plays.”

Chigas started on the mound for the Pioneers, taking the loss. He went four-plus innings, allowing four hits.

Tiffin improved to 8-7.

In the first game, the Saints grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by Sean Plouffe, but the Pioneers rallied with three runs in the fourth. Niko Ruiz slammed an RBI triple to center, then scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Saints starter Zach Botjer. Delvalle, who walked, eventually came around to score, aided by an error on Plouffe, who was catching.

The Saints came back to tie the game with single runs in the fourth and fifth. Evan King’s RBI single tied the game at 3, but the Pioneers came right back with three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to win.

Botjer went five innings for the Saints and didn’t figure in the decision. Reliever Seth McWilliams took the loss.

Pioneers coach David Robinson was succinct when asked what the key was in the Game 1 win.

“No errors,” he said.

Branch, a former standout pitcher for Adrian University, got the win by going five innings. He scattered seven hits and didn’t strike out a batter, but was effective.

The Pioneers closed out the game with a scoreless inning each from two relievers – Travis Mielcarek and Steve Chapter.

GROUNDERS: Today’s starting pitcher for the Saints will be someone familiar to Heidelberg fans, and familiar with Peaceful Valley. Chris Thomas, Heidelberg University’s ace for the last several seasons, is scheduled to debut for the Saints today in the series finale with the Pioneers. The Pioneers will counter with Christian Rodriguez. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. … Here’s something you don’t see often: In the top of the fourth inning in Game 1 Saturday, the Pioneers had runners at first and second with nobody out. The runner on second – Erick Gaylord – broke early for third. Botjer, the pitcher, caught him and was able to get Gaylord in a rundown. While that was going on, the runner on first (Tyler Yockey) took second. But there was a bobble by the Saints during the rundown, allowing Gaylord to get back to second – where Yockey was standing. After a caucus, the umpires ruled Yockey out. According to rule 7.03 (a) in the pro baseball rulebook on MLB(dot)com, when this occurs “the following runner shall be out when tagged, and the preceding runner may be entitled to the base.” … With Azzopardi, the club’s usual catcher, still suspended for Game 1, Parent had to get a little creative when pinch-hitting for Plouffe in the sixth in Game 1. Klemcke, who pinch hit, stayed in the game and caught the seventh. The usual outfielder said he’s not used to being behind the plate. “In college [at UTPA] I played shortstop about 90 percent of the games,” he said. “The last time I caught I think I was 12 years old.” According to Parent, Klemcke did catch an inning at Marion two weeks ago. Either way, it’s not a common occurrence. … Ben Toodle pitched a scoreless seventh to close out Game 2 for the Saints, but it wasn’t easy. The former Minnesota Twins draft pick hit three batters. Parent said Toodle changed arm slots recently. “He’s just not finding the release point yet,” Parent said. … While serving his two-game suspension, Azzopardi acted as the public address announcer at Peaceful Valley. The Australia native did well, but Parent said it was great to have the catcher/assistant coach back in uniform. “We need his veteran presence and his ability to call pitches,” he said. When told Parent was good on the PA, Parent smiled and said “don’t tell him that.”