By Gabe Schapiro
Vallejo, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (8-8) did all of the little things, edging out the Sonoma Stompers (11-3), 3-1, Friday night, at Wilson Park.
Admirals starter David Dinelli was dominant on his way to earning the victory, and did enough to defeat his counterpart, Jeff Conley, in a classic pitchers duel. Vallejo’s offense wasn’t explosive, but one night after manager Garry Templeton said that they had to improve their situational hitting, they did just that. They bunted guys over, hit grounders the opposite way to allow runners to advance, and hit sacrifice flies on their way to topping the league’s best team.
It quickly became clear that it probably wouldn’t be a high scoring affair. Both starters were on top of their game early, and through three innings of play both had only seen a couple over the minimum.
In the fourth, however, Sonoma broke through first, thanks to some two out magic, and some help from the Admirals defense.
After Dinelli retired the first two hitters of the inning, his old battery mate, Isaac Wenrich, worked a walk. Kristian Gayday then singled to right field, which took an awkward bounce that skipped off of Tony McClendon’s knee, allowing Wenrich to advance to third. With runners at the corners, Daniel Baptista hit a high slow chopper towards second base that Michael Cerda charged and threw to first as he was falling to the ground. Despite the great effort, the ball sailed past first base, scoring Wenrich.
One night prior to the start of the series, Templeton had also noted that the team defense had to improve. The miscues in the fourth appeared as though it might be another one of those nights, but the defense locked down from there, and even turned in some truly gold glove caliber plays.
“I had a talk with the guys,” said Templeton, “and told them that the defensive play had to step up, and that it’s something that’s holding us back a little right now. And they showed up today, they played that solid defense, so now it’s about doing it every night.”
And sure enough, that was the only run that the Stompers would muster on the evening.
The closest thing that Sonoma had to a rally from that point forward was a pair of two out walks in the fifth, before Dinelli re-discovered his command and cruised the rest of the way.
“My fastball command was good today, in every inning but the fifth when I had a couple of walks,” said the hurler. “The rest of the game, me and Kale [Sumner] were doing a good job of mixing it up on both sides of the plate, getting ahead with the fastball, and just riding that all game long.”
With Dinelli holding up his end of the bargain, it was time for the Admirals bats to break through. In the sixth inning, they obliged.
Cerda reached safely to lead off the inning, when Gered Mochizuki bobbled his ground ball. McClendon stepped to the plate, and atoned for his earlier miscue by smacking a double that bounced off the wall, scoring Cerda all the way from first. Jordan Hinshaw laid down a perfect bunt to advance McClendon to third, and in a stroke of perfect situational hitting, Kale Sumner then drove McClendon in with a sacrifice fly to deep right field.
“On the 3-1 count I swung a little too hard,” said Sumner. “So I figured I would cut down my swing and just try to get the ball into the outfield somewhere and try to get that run in, and it worked out.”
The run gave Vallejo their first lead, and would prove to be the game winner.
Dinelli came out for his seventh and final frame, looking for a shut down inning. He allowed a single, but ended his night be inducing a 6-4-3 double play do away with the last runner that Sonoma would get on base.
The workhorse threw 120 pitches in his seven innings, allowing no earned runs, five hits, and three walks, while striking out eight.
The pitch count might sound high, but for the 6’4”, 220-pound ace, it’s just another night’s work.
“I didn’t feel any fatigue at all really. You do a good job in the offseason of making sure your body is in good shape, and that way 120 pitches is just as easy as throwing 80 pitches.”
“I just enjoy watching him pitch,” added Templeton. “When Dinelli comes to the ballpark, you know that he’s 100% focused, and that you’re going to get 100% of whatever he has. He might not have his best on a given day, but you know that you’re going to get everything that he’s got every single time out there. That’s why I enjoy having him around.”
For good measure, the Admirals scratched across an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. This time it was the speedy Darian Sandford creating a run seemingly out of nothing. After reaching on a single, he advanced to second on a ground out. With two outs, he stole third base, and scored after the rushed throw from catcher Andrew Parker sailed into right field.
Steve Thompson and closer Bryan Escanio silenced any intentions of a Stompers come back, each tossing one-two-three innings in the eighth and ninth respectively.
“Any time you can come out, no matter who the opponent is, and get your team a win, or at least give your team a chance to get a win, it always feels good,” said Dinelli after the victory. “And absolutely, taking down a team that’s at the top of the league right now is a good boost for the team morale.”
The Admirals will look to keep that momentum going tonight with Nick Flory on the mound, in game two of the series against Sonoma. The action starts at 5:00 PM, and prior to the game we will be celebrating our second annual Tailgate Party hosted by The Relay Club, located across the street from Wilson Park, at 1035 Maine St. Those festivities get underway at 2:00 PM.