By Gabe Schapiro
Sonoma, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (5-11) made a game of it late, but their comeback bid fell short on the way to a 7-4 loss at the hands of the Sonoma Stompers (9-7), Tuesday Night, at Arnold Field.
The game got off to a rough start, with the Admirals finding themselves in a 7-0 hole by the seventh inning. Vallejo made a late charge against Sonoma closer Sean Conroy, with the tying run eventually coming to the plate in the ninth. It would prove to be too little, too late, however, as the Admirals ran out of steam against one of the league’s better stoppers.
For the second time in as many starts, Vallejo starter Demetrius Banks pitched better than the “L” next to this name, or the final score, would indicate.
The defense behind let him down early, with there already being two errors on the board through just two hitters.
Matt Hibbert led off the first with a single, that Jordan Berry mishandled in left field, allowing Hibbert to advance second. Yuki Yasuda followed with a routine ground ball to second base that the usually sure-handed PJ Phillips couldn’t glove, putting runners at the corners. Both would later come around to score, giving the Stompers the early 2-0 lead.
Sonoma added three more in the third, thanks to three singles, another error, a walk, and a balk.
Banks buckled down from there, facing the minimum in the fourth and fifth to end his night. All told, only two of the five runs he allowed would be earned.
“I think they hit one ball hard off of him,” said manager Garry Templeton II, “and that was a two-hopper through the infield. Everything else was a jam shot, off of the end of the bat, a couple flares here and there. I think he did a good job. That game could have easily been 1-0, or 2-0 at most, going into the fifth.”
Meanwhile, Stompers starter, Santos Saldivar, cruised his way through seven shutout innings of work. He scattered four hits and two walks, while striking out nine. Vallejo managed to get a man to second base just once in those seven frames.
“When we face this team in this park, early in the game we have trouble hitting, “ said Templeton. “It could be the backdrop, could be the shadows, it could just be that they’re pitching really well, or a combination of the three. It’s just hard to figure out right now. Some days we’re really on, and a lot of these days we’re off. It’s a lack of consistency on our part.”
In the eighth, armed with a lead that had swollen to 7-0, Sonoma handed the ball off to Conroy. The hurler has been one of the best closers in the league, and the Admirals had yet to score a run off of him this season.
Vallejo showed some fight, however, putting a dent into his armor for the first time.
Chad Bunting led off the eighth with the teams’ first extra base hit of the evening, a long double off of the left-center field wall. Phillips and Josh Wong later followed with doubles of their own, plating two.
The Admirals went right back to work in the ninth. The first three hitters of the inning reached, with the rally culminating in a Berry two-RBI single, cutting their deficit to just three.
Conroy halted the momentum there, quickly getting the last three outs, despite the tying run being at the plate.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” said Templeton on his squads’ late push. “We were one swing away from tying that ballgame up. With parks like these, if you can get guys on base the game can change in one swing. We were close, we just weren’t able to get that last big hit.”
Vallejo will try to build off of their late game momentum, and carry that into tonight’s game two against the Stompers. The action gets underway at 6:00 PM.