Wallner completes cycle, drives in 6 for St. Paul

September 2nd, 2022

How locked in was Matt Wallner? He didn’t even realize he was a triple shy of the cycle … until he hit second base.

The No. 5 Twins prospect stumbled his way to third base and just barely beat the tag, but when he stood up he could finally crack a smile. Wallner had completed the first cycle in St. Paul Saints history, which dates back to its run in the independent American Association from 1993-2020.

He didn’t stop there, though. With the game out of hand as his team batted around in the eighth inning, Wallner ripped his second double and drove in the last of his six RBIs on the night. With all but one of its runs scoring in the fourth or eighth, St. Paul cruised to an 18-6 win over Omaha.

“It felt pretty good,” Wallner said. “It was the first time I’ve ever been able to do something like that in my life so it was pretty fun.”

After doubling in the first and reaching on an infield single in the third, he stepped to the plate in the fourth with the Saints leading by one. With four runs already having scored in the frame, the Storm Chasers turned to reliever Josh Dye, who served up a curveball on a 1-1 count to Wallner.

“I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” he said. “[Dye] left one over the plate for me and I was able to get it. That was the pitch I was looking for.”

A strikeout in Wallner’s next turn at the plate in the sixth inning likely cleared his mind of any attempt at the milestone. When he drilled a hard ground ball into the right-center field gap in the eighth inning, he was content with pulling into second at first.

“Honestly I forgot about it until I rounded second and realized I kind of had to full-send it to try and get to third,” Wallner said. “The dugout was yelling so that knocked it back into my brain.”

With one five-hit effort, Wallner boosted his batting average in 37 games since his promotion to Triple-A from .218 to .245, which is emblematic of the roller coaster season he has put together.

Yes, he hit 21 home runs in 78 games in Double-A and cranked a 116 mph long ball at the Futures Game in Los Angeles, but his adjustment to Triple-A has been uneasy. Through his first 10 games with the Saints, he had hit safely in just four of his 38 at-bats.

“There have definitely been some ups and downs, but overall it’s been a fun year,” Wallner said. “I’m just focused on trying to finish out strong here.”

For a born and bred Minnesota kid, that means putting himself in a position to compete for a job with his hometown Twins next season. Playing in nearby St. Paul has afforded him a taste of the experience, but his eyes are laser focused on the real deal.

“It’s really cool getting to play close to home, but more importantly my family gets to come to every game,” Wallner said. “It’s fun for them and fun for me."

Stepping out onto Target Field with Twins scrawled across his chest?

“It would mean everything,” he said. “It’s what you dream about as a kid.”