Sioux Falls – It was not the start the St. Paul Saints wanted, but the defending American Association champions at least got a chance to play a game again.
The Saints lost to the Sioux Falls Canaries 9-4 on Opening Day of a coronavirus-delayed season at Sioux Falls Stadium before 1,522 fans — that's about 500 fewer than the capacity, set at 50% of the available seats to encourage social distancing.
It was the first game by a professional sports team from Minnesota since March 11, when the Twins lost a spring training game to Atlanta. That was the day the pandemic was declared.
The Saints — after getting their championship rings the day before — trailed 3-0, tied the score in the fifth inning, but then fell behind again 5-3 before Sioux Falls eventually pulled away on four home runs.
Saints starter Eddie Medina gave up three homers, tying a career high, and five runs (three earned) in five innings.
The Saints closed within 3-2 on Mitch Ghelfi's two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning and tied the score at 3-all in the fifth on J.C. Millan's sacrifice fly. Sioux Falls retook the lead at 5-3 in the bottom of the same inning on solo homers by Andrew Ely and Alay Lago.
Jabari Henry, a Saints player for part of last season, gave the Canaries the lead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first. Teammate K.C. Huth also hit a two-run shot in the eighth.
The Saints are using the Birdcage as their home field with their hub partner, the Canaries — at least early this season — until Gov. Tim Walz significantly relaxes attendance restrictions in Minnesota, now at 250 for outdoor events.
Two other Opening Day games also were played in the American Association in Fargo and Milwaukee.
• Matt Solter is scheduled to pitch for the Saints in the second game of this series at 6 p.m. Saturday.
• It was an ideal night for baseball in Sioux Falls. Game time temperature was 86 degrees, with an 8 mph wind from the southeast. The game took 2 hours, 53 minutes and was followed by fireworks.
• Connor Justus had the fourth RBI for the Saints on a run-scoring single in the sixth.
• This was the first of 24 games between the Saints and Canaries in a 60-game season. Each will be the home team 12 times at the Birdcage.
• Eight of the nine Canaries in the starting lineup had at least one hit. … Ghelfi was 2-for-4 for the Saints as was Justin Byrd.
• Ex-Gophers closer Brian Glowicki made an appearance for the Saints. He pitched two innings, giving up two runs and one hit. He struck out four, walked two.
• John Gaskins, the Canaries new media director, got some laughs with a bit in the eighth inning that the Saints, who are fond of wacky gimmicks, would have been proud of. He was introduced as Doug Diamond, the nephew of Neil Diamond, and sang "Sweet Caroline" with slightly altered lyrics: "Hands, not touchin' hands/Reachin'out/Not touchin' me/Not touchin' you."