By Tim Fitzgerald
Vallejo, CA – What looked like smooth sailing after the fifth inning turned into choppy waters on a windy Tuesday night at Wilson Park, before the Admirals (13-18) eventually pulled away with an 11-6 victory.
The Admirals small-balled their way to the first two runs of the game. Alian Silva hit a slow roller up the first base line with the bases loaded that San Rafael pitcher Nick DeBarr couldn’t scoop and throw to home in time on. Then Gadiel Baez hit a similar ball further up the first-base line for an RBI groundout to make it 2-0 in the second inning.
A two-run shot to deep left from Joe Hicks in the third was followed up by three-run bomb to center from returning Admiral Aaron Brill in the fifth inning, and the Admirals were up 8-0.
Starter Marquis Hutchinson had thrown five shutout innings at that point, walking five and striking out three.
Player-Manager P.J. Phillips liked what he saw from his starter today. “Hutchinson’s fastball command was on today,” Phillips commented. “So he got ahead of some hitters and that allowed him to put some zeroes.”
“I felt great today,” Hutchinson said after improving to 3-2 on the season. “My fastball and my change were working well.”
The rookie from Talladega College has seen his pitch command improve as the season has gone on.
“I feel like my control is improving a lot because I’m more relaxed now,” Hutchinson commented.
But “Hutch” was lifted after 93 pitches as he is converting from reliever to starter, and it was the first time he had appeared in consecutive starts this season.
Hector Ortiz came into the game in relief and struggled right away. He allowed five hits and three walks while recording only one out. Luis Ferreras relieved Ortiz and allowed a bloop single and an RBI groundout, before ending the inning with a strikeout as 11 Pacifics came to the plate in a six-run sixth to cut it to 8-6.
The Admirals would get some insurance though as Pedro Perez drove in Wilfredo Petit to make it 9-6 Vallejo in the seventh. They would plate two more in the eighth as Darian Sandford lead off the inning with walk, and stole both second and third before being driven in by Gerald Bautista’s line drive up the middle. Hicks would go on to add an RBI ground out to plate Bautista to make it 11-6 Admirals.
Hicks had three hits, three runs scored, and two RBIs on the night. Brill made his 2016 season debut with two hits and a walk after playing 13 games with the Admirals in 2015.
“It felt good to get back on the field,” Brill said as he had been chomping at the bit after arriving in town last week. “I’ve been excited to get into the mix with these young guys and do my part to get us going like we know we can. P.J. [Phillips] has us feeling loose in the clubhouse and on the field. We all know were about to set this league on fire.”
Ferreras worked a scoreless seventh inning after stopping the bleeding in the sixth, and Wendall Floranus notched a save by working a scoreless eighth and ninth.
Game two of the series begins at 6:35 p.m. at Wilson Park, with David Dinelli scheduled to be the starter for the Admirals.