By Evan Giddings
SONOMA, CA – In a season that up until this point had only seen one winning streak, the Vallejo Admirals (13-21) began a new one last night in convincing fashion, besting the Pacific Association-leading Sonoma Stompers (21-11) in an all-around team effort by an 8-3 score.
Coming off back-to-back come-from-behind victories, the Admirals again stared adversity in face, and again came out on top.
However, this time it came in the form of an early shoulder injury sustained by starting pitcher Brooks Belter, who only recorded two outs before having to come out of the game, forcing the bullpen to step up.
“Before the game we kind of new that it would be myself and Derrick [Mitchell] in the bullpen,” said reliever Ian Gray. “So we knew we had to be ready for anything,”
However, coming on to pitch so early was a bit of a shock, one that Gray responded well to. He tossed 4.1 innings – his longest outing of the year – and faced the minimum of nine batters through his final three innings of work.
“I said to myself this can go one of two ways, you can either mess up or bear down and get the job done.” This was Gray’s mentality, which unknowingly was passed along to the next man up, reliever Derrick Mitchell.
“I just wanted to get the job done for the team,” said Mitchell. “I tell myself do you want it more than the other guy and that’s always something that gets me through with the mentality to take them down.”
It was this mentality that got the left-hander through the team’s toughest test in the seventh inning: a tie ball game with men on first and second and no one out. After getting the first out himself on a failed Sonoma bunt attempt, Mitchell struck out the next hitter before inducing a groundout to first to end the final Stomper threat of the game.
“I knew going in I needed to eat up some innings,” he said after the game. “So I just went in there thinking, if I get through this I’m going to go get the next one.”
Meanwhile, the Admiral offense was anything but quiet, totaling 11 hits – and most importantly – taking advantage of surrendered Sonoma walks, as well as a key error.
With the game all knotted up at three in the eight inning, Vallejo loaded the bases on a couple of free passes and a single, before the newest Admiral, shortstop Gadiel Baez, sent a hot shot up the middle to break the tie.
The next hitter Jaylen Harris sent a one-hop comebacker to the Stomper reliever, Erik Gonsalves, who threw it away trying to get the force out at home plate, allowing two runs to score.
One pitch after a Sonoma pitching change – much like the previous two days – PJ Phillips delivered the dagger with a two-RBI single through the left side to seal the victory.
After the game, the Admirals slick handed shortstop, who collected a game-high three hits felt his swing certainly broke out. “I’m just trying to work on getting good contact,” he said. “But if I get it middle-in, some of those hits will come.”
Along with handling the bat, Baez also flashed the leather, flawlessly recording a game-high four assists. “I just think like I’m playing in the street with my brothers back home,” he said. “That way I can have fun, which is a big key.”
The Admirals certainly seemed to have fun starting the team’s first winning streak since the Opening Day series sweep back on June 4th, something Manager Gary Templeton II senses could begin to lead his ball club down a positive path.
“You try not to get too up or too down on wins and losses because it is a long season, but I’m glad were starting to move in the right direction.” He said. “This can get us to roll into the second half with some good momentum.”
Admirals will try to continue their streak tomorrow night at Arnold Field in Sonoma. Game time is set for 5:00PM