By Gabe Schapiro
Sonoma, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (8-12) lost a classic pitchers duel to the Sonoma Stompers (15-3), 1-0, Wednesday night, at Arnold Field.
Despite very contrasting styles, both starting pitchers, Demetrius Banks and Gregory Paulino, were nearly unhittable all night. Banks pitched to contact and was very efficient, tossing just 90 pitches in eight scoreless innings. Paulino, meanwhile, racked up the strikeouts, finishing with 12 in a complete game shutout.
In an otherwise very well played game, one of Vallejo’s biggest weaknesses reared it’s ugly head in the ninth, with an error leading to the game’s only run and Sonoma’s walk off victory.
After combining to score 19 runs off of the Admirals over their last two games, Banks quickly silenced the onslaught. The Stompers didn’t register their first hit off of Banks until the fourth inning, and didn’t get a man to third base until the seventh.
“He pitched to contact and we made plays behind him,” Said manager Garry Templeton II on his starter and pitching coach. “He found his rhythm and he was able to locate his fastball. I think he only threw about five curve balls all night, so he just changed speeds with his fastball, and was able to be effective.”
Each time it appeared as though the Stompers might be on the verge of breaking through, the always cool calm and collected Banks got himself out of the few jams he had.
“I just wanted them to hit the ball,” said Banks on his approach. “Honestly, I just wanted them to make contact and hit ground balls, because I know this place has some short porches, so I can’t let them get too many balls into the air. Today the wind also worked in my favor, but like I said I was just trying to keep the ball down, that was my mind set.”
Unfortunately for Vallejo, Banks’ counterpart, Paulino, was even better. The Admirals got a man to second base just once, in the fourth inning, when Kale Sumner and Josh Wong slapped back-to-back singles. Paulino struck out the next two hitters he faced, however, ending what would be Vallejo’s lone rally.
Paulino would go on to allow just two other hits, for a total of four on the evening, to go along with zero walks and his 12 punch outs.
“He was able to keep our hitters off balance,” said Templeton. “His change up and slider were working really well, and he would just sneak the fastball in there, which kept all of our hitters off balance. He did a good job. “
It became clear that the ballgame would come down to who blinked first. For eight and a half innings, both pitchers were masterful, and both defenses made some difficult plays look easy.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Admirals blinked.
Banks walked Mochizuki to lead off the inning, his last batter of the night, as Templeton went to his pen to try and send it to extras.
Ian Gray entered, but lasted just one batter, as he threw a wild pitch, and then walked the dangerous Joel Carranza intentionally to set up the double play situation once again. The lefty Derrick Mitchell was called on to pitch to Isaac Wenrich, who tried to bunt the runners over, but Mitchell pounced on the attempt and threw out Mochizuki at third for a force out. Mark Hurley stepped to the plate, and sent a dribbler up the middle that shortstop Juan Martinez and second baseman PJ Phillips couldn’t get a handle on.
With one out, that loaded the bases for Daniel Baptista. On the second pitch he saw, he sent what appeared to be a perfect double play ground ball to Martinez. Instead of tossing the ball to the awaiting Phillips, however, Martinez decided to try and take it himself. He ran to the bag, stepped on it for the second out, and tried to get off the awkward throw in a different direction than where his body was going. The ball sailed well over Wong’s head at first, scoring Carranza from third, and ending the game.
“That’s a play where he has to throw it to the second baseman and let him take care of it,” said Templeton after the tough loss. “It’s just bad defense. I keep saying it, and I sound like a broken record, but in that whole sequence in the ninth, there were things that went wrong that shouldn’t go wrong. Guys were in the wrong positions. It’s not just about physical mistakes; it’s about making the right play.”
Despite another loss, Banks kept things positive, focusing more on the first eight innings rather than the last half of one.
“It’s early, we’re still working on gelling as a team, and understanding what we can and can’t do. I think that today we showed that we can play fundamental baseball, catch the ball, throw the ball, do everything that we’re supposed to do to win a ball game.”
The Admirals will look to carry some of that positivity into tonight’s contest, as they try to salvage a win in the final game of this three game set in Sonoma. To do it, Vallejo will send their ace, David Dinelli to the mound. The action gets underway at 6:00 PM.