Thomas, Winder pace Saints

During his postgame interview Sunday, Saints starting pitcher Chris Thomas was hit by a postgame shower, as teammates dumped a bottle of water over his head.

It was one of the few times anyone hit Thomas on the day

The Heidelberg alum made his pro debut on the mound for the Saints and tossed a gem. Thomas went seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out seven, helping Tiffin to a 4-3 victory over the Adrian Pioneers.

Thomas also benefited from familiar surroundings as the Saints play their home games at Peaceful Valley, the same home park Thomas took the mound on when pitching for the Student Princes.

“It was good to be back,” he said. “It was a little different with different guys around, but I’m getting to know everyone, they’re all good guys.”

Saints manager Ryan Parent was pleased he was able to get Thomas on the roster, and was even happier after he saw the performance Thomas gave him on the mound.

“He pitched real good. There’s a reason why they called him the ace for Heidelberg. He came out here and proved his worth,” Parent said. “He’s a diamond in the rough. He was at a tryout in October here, and said ‘I’m a college senior.’ I told him I couldn’t talk to him. I haven’t seen him since then and he came up, threw a bullpen session for us a couple weeks ago. It was a highly anticipated debut for him. It was very good for us, we were very happy.”

Thomas credited his ability to hit the strike zone as a key to his success.

“I was locating my fastball well, and getting off-speed pitches in for strikes,” he said. “It was good getting ahead of guys too.”

But as well as Thomas pitched, he wouldn’t have been able to claim a win in his debut outing if not for some timely hitting from the Saints offense.

Tiffin trailed 2-0 coming to bat in the sixth as Pioneer starer Christian Rodriguez was cruising, facing the minimum through five innings.

But the bottom of Tiffin’s lineup got things started. Singles by Justin Cureton and Tyler Crandell got the ball rolling and Ernesto Punales singled home Cureton for the team’s first run.

the 7-8-9 hitters for the Saints – Cureton, Crandell and Punales – went a combined 5 for 9 with two RBIs and three runs scored.

“That’s the good thing about a good lineup,” Parent said. “Anybody within that order should be able to take the game in their hands and win it for us. When I built this lineup, that’s what I wanted. I wanted to be good from top to bottom and have anybody clutch. I don’t want to have anybody in my lineup that I’m going ‘oh no he’s up.’ I don’t want that. I trust everybody in my lineup. I trust everybody on my bench right now hitting wise, that they can come through if I put them in a game.”

After the bottom of the order set the table, lead-off hitter Chris Winder cleared it off. Winder launched a triple to the fence in left-center scoring Crandell and Punales, giving the Saints their first lead of the game.

“They had really good at-bats, I was just trying to make something happen,” Winder said. “Battled off some good pitches, then (Rodriguez) left me a fastball. I just put a good swing on the pitch. That’s what your trying to do at the plate, put the barrel on the ball.”

The Saints added an insurance run in the seventh. Shane Klemcke was hit to start the inning. He stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. Cureton drove him in with an RBI single that chased Rodriguez from the game.

“We just got it rolling right there,” Winder said. “Everybody started getting hits, started seeing him better, started seeing a lot of pitches. And he just left a couple over the plate and we put good swings on them.”

Rodriguez ended up going 7 1/3 innings, giving up four runs off eight hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

“He’s our best pitcher and we were doing pretty good,” Pioneers manager David Robinson said. “Then the sixth inning, he looked like he was starting to have problems. I noticed he had a problem moving his weight to the other side of his foot. Come to find out he’s got turf toe. So we ended up taking him out, and that hurt us.”

Adrian got one back off the Saints bullpen in the eighth, and threatened to get more loading the bases with two outs. But Seth McWilliams got Adam Humes to line-out to Punales at short to end the threat. Guadalupe Barrera sat the Pioneers down in order in the ninth to close out the game.

“We had a good shot in the eighth, and just hit it at someone,” Robinson said. “That’s baseball.”