05/15/2019 9:30 AM -
By Dan Vaughan
For a team that hit 78 regular-season home runs and that was second in the Association in offence with a .295 regular season batting average, it might come as a bit of an eye brow raiser that the T-Bones had not hit a grand slam in 2018 until the post season . There were nine more long balls hit in the post season for a total of 87 homers hit by the 2018 American Association Champions. It was number 86, part of a two home run night for Todd Cunningham, that helped, but Kansas City was still one win away from the ring sizer.
Kansas City and St. Paul returned from Lowerton even at one game apiece in the best-of-five series. Both clubs had convincing wins to start the series. The T-Bones got off on the right foot in the opener, 11-4, and the Saints returned the favor, 6-0, in game two. The key game three awaited with the T-Bones hoping that the winning series math would prevail at home with three games scheduled. The team needed to win two of three, something KC had done 22 times already and once in the previous round.
The T-Bones would trail in both games at T-Bones Stadium against the Saints. Game three got off to a rocky start. Tommy Collier struck out the game’s lead-off batter, but the second batter, Kyle Barrett, hit a home run that gave the Saints an early 1-0 lead. Collier, however, limited the damage to one run, leaving runners at the corners. In the second, a pair of RBI singles for Joey Wong and Kyle Barrett upped the Saints lead to 3-0.
Todd Cunningham would hit a solo home run in the third off Trevor Foss to cut the lead to 3-1 and to give the T-Bones bats some life. Yet the Saints still had the upper hand as we headed to the sixth inning.
From the game story:
“In the bottom of the sixth, Adrian Nieto doubled and was brought home when Alay Lago hit into a fielder’s choice. An RBI single to left by Ryan Brett tied it up 3-3 when Keith Curcio scored. Then, with two outs and bases loaded, Todd Cunningham, who led the league in batting average for a good part of the season, connected with a 1-0 pitch and sent it over the right field wall for the T-Bones first grand slam of 2018. Cunningham’s grand slam propelled the T-Bones to a 7-3 lead over the Saints. St. Paul wasn’t able to produce anything else in the game, ending it with a final of 7-3 Kansas City.”
Two-time Rawlings Pitcher-of-the-Month, Tommy Collier, worked eight innings, six of them scoreless after giving up the three early-game runs. Reliever Cody Winiarski came in to finish off the ninth. That was as text book T-Bones as it got in 2018. The five RBIs for Cunningham were the second most during the season and most in the post season for a single game. Noah Perio Jr. had six on August 25th against Sioux City at home.
It was number 86 that put Kansas City just a win away from their first American Association crown.