By Gabe Schapiro
Pittsburg, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (13-26, 2-2) outdueled the Pittsburg Diamonds (18-20, 2-2), 4-3, in a contest that was anyone’s ball game up until the very last out, Tuesday night, at City Park Field.
Starters Nick Flory and Barrett Phillips went toe-to-toe for most of the evening. The two lefties both pitched well, and wound up with more similarities than just the hand they throw with. Each tossed six innings, each allowed five hits and two runs, and each struck out eight. Despite their quality efforts, neither would factor into the decision. In a game that ultimately came down to a battle of the bullpens and execution on defense, Vallejo was just a bit better.
Reliever Steve Thompson would end up coming away with the win, and closer Bryan Escanio ran into some trouble in the ninth, but ultimately got the job done, earning his sixth save of the season.
After a quiet first two innings, the Admirals broke through in the third.
Tyler Nordgren and Gadiel Baez got the rally started with a single and a hit by pitch. Two batters later, Lydell Moseby, in his fifth game with the club, continued to make his presence felt, slapping a single the other way to drive in Nordgren. The RBI gave Vallejo the early 1-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, however, the Diamonds also broke through against Flory. Three consecutive hits, culminating with a Mike Taylor ground rule double plated their first run to tie the game up at 1-1. Two hitters later, Rich Mejia came up with a sacrifice fly that gave Pittsburg their first lead.
The seesaw battle continued in the fifth. Glenn Walker walked, and then promptly flashed his speed stealing second and third base. Moseby also walked to put runners at the corners for Josh Wong, who came into the at bat with a 10-game hitting streak. Wong would make it 11, coming through with a line drive up the middle to score Walker, and bring the contest back to a tie.
After surrendering two runs in the third, Flory went on to toss three more scoreless innings to end his night.
“My location was good, more so then anything,” said Flory on his start. “I’ve been missing up during my last couple of starts, and I was actually getting my fingers on top today, and staying down in the zone and working in and out. Getting back to the basics, just not leaving the ball up for them to drive.”
“I definitely think he’s back to his old self,” added manager Garry Templeton II. “He got into a couple of jams but got out of them, which was good to see. He just went out there and competed. He made pitches when he had to make pitches.”
Both bullpens took over heading into the seventh.
After a scoreless inning, the Admirals recaptured the lead in the eighth with a bang.
Chad Bunting, one of three new outfielders making their debut for Vallejo, led off the inning. He had already had a good night, playing flawless defense and singling in the second for his first hit with his new team. But his night was about to get a whole lot better.
Bunting jumped on the first offering of the inning, sending a deep fly ball over the left field wall for a go-ahead solo home run.
“It’s a fun way to come in to a new team, and get a little spark going,” said Templeton. “To get a big hit in at a moment when we needed it, and to help us win a game, I was definitely excited for him.”
Thompson was the first man up out of the pen for the Admirals. After one painless inning, he went back out in the eighth to try and hold the newly attained lead.
Things got off to a rocky start. Taylor and Mejia led off the inning with back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with no outs. Getting at least the tying run across seemed inevitable, but Thompson had other plans.
Nick Oddo flied out to shallow centerfield, not nearly deep enough to allow Taylor to score, for the first out of the inning. Joe Lewis, the former Admiral, then stepped to the plate. Thompson had to throw just one pitch, and induced a ground ball to shortstop Gadiel Baez, who made a nice play to complete the 6-3 double play to get Vallejo out of the inning unscathed.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re looking for from our pen,” said Templeton on the gutsy performance. “For these guys to step up and hold teams to no runs when we get into tight situations like that. He did an excellent job tonight, coming in and slamming the door on those guys. He showed heart and got the job done.”
The Admirals managed to add an insurance run in the ninth, that would loom very large in the bottom half of the inning.
Escanio entered with a now two run lead. He quickly got two fly outs, but the final nail in the Diamonds coffin would prove to be hard to hammer in.
Pittsburg was down to their final strike to each of the next three hitters Escanio would face, but each found a way to extend the game. A hit by pitch and two singles later, and the Admirals were clinging to a one run advantage, with the tying run sitting on first base. Taylor, the Diamonds leading home run hitter, represented their last chance. Escanio once again had them on the ropes with a two-strike count, but this time finished the job, getting Taylor to chase high heat to seal Vallejo’s victory.
“It was a good all around team game today,” said Flory. “If we can win these close ones, we’ll be alright.”
The Admirals will be back at it tonight for game two of this three game set with the Diamonds, as they send Tony Guerra to the mound. The action gets underway at 7:00 PM.