11Instead, amidst groans in the stands and a grisly final inning reliever Chris Kissock might wish he could take back, the Fish fell 4-3 to the St. Paul Saints in a heartbreaking second tilt. That means the teams split the night at one win apiece. It also means the Goldeyes, now 36-20, stood pat on their grasp of the North division lead, still 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Saints.
Of course, it's too early to get too excited about standings, with 44 games yet to play this season, and three more in this series alone.
At any rate, the Fish opened this matchup right. The Goldeyes came into this series looking to shake off the disappointment of last week, where they slogged through a five-game losing streak. They snapped that on Sunday with a 4-2 win over Gary SouthShore, which took 11 innings to sort out.
In the first game of the doubleheader on Tuesday evening, it looked like they would keep rolling. They won the first game 4-0, picking up where rain had suspended it a month ago. The Fish were already leading 1-0 when it was suspended on June 14, and they added three more runs to set the final score. On the mound, pitcher Chandler Barnard kept the Saints off the scoreboard.
After a short break, it looked like the second game of the doubleheader might go the same way.
It's not that the Goldeyes bats were so flashy, just they bit hard enough when the Saints made a mistake. Mostly, it helped that starting pitcher Matt Jackson kept their rivals pinioned at the plate. In his six innings on the bump, Jackson struck out 10, allowed five hits and no runs. He didn't give up a walk, either, and for the most part you didn't see many Saints on the bags.
Meanwhile, the Goldeyes pounced on an opportunity to make their rivals pay. After battling through three scoreless innings, the Fish cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the third, a sequence that started when designated hitter Sam Kimmel -- just signed to the Goldeyes earlier that day -- took a walk from Saints starting pitcher Matt Barnese. Then shortstop Tyler Kuhn drove the ball deep into right field to get on base.
That should have been a single, but Saints right fielder Evan Bigley fumbled the return throw. His error gave the Fish runners a window.
So as Goldeyes manager Rick Forney windmilled his arms madly to call his runners to keep going, Kimmel scampered past home and Kuhn blazed the base path to third. A moment later, outfielder Josh Mazzola's single gave Kuhn an opportunity to tally his own run, and first baseman Casey Haerther's RBI single did the same for Mazzola.
By the time Barnese managed to hammer things down, the Goldeyes had taken a 3-0 lead.
The Saints threatened to strike back then, stringing together two fourth-inning singles while two outs leered on the board. But with Saints first baseman Angelo Songco was poised on third and ready to score, Goldeyes starting pitcher Matt Jackson nailed designated hitter Jake Taylor down at the plate. Three strikes, he was out. The Saints were stuck scoreless, over halfway through the truncated game.
It looked like things might stay that way, as the teams rounded into the top of the seventh, in the scheduled seven-inning game.
Instead, the win just fell apart. The Goldeyes put recently-acquired reliever Cephas Howard on the mound to start the seventh, who promptly gave up a single and hurled a wild pitch before striking one out.
Then all-star reliever Chris Kissock came out, and everything just... fell apart. With two outs on the board, Kissock watched as the Saints burned him for two doubles and three singles in quick succession -- which combined to score four runners.
The Fish finally yanked him and put Kaohi Downing on the bump instead, who struck out Saints first baseman Angelo Songco to close the top of the seventh. But the damage was done, and the Goldeyes just couldn't grab a tying run in their own half of the inning.
The Saints and Fish will continue the series with another doubleheader, starting tonight at 5 p.m.
-- Melissa Martin