By Matt O’Donnell, Vallejo Times-Herald
Vallejo Admirals slugger Nick Akins Sr. had been hitting home runs at a frantic pace through the first 34 games in the Pacific Association.
Then it stopped. For 10 days, balls stopped leaving the yard.
The drought ended in a huge way on Friday at Wilson Park as Akins connected for a two-run blast in the fourth inning — his team-record-breaking 19th homer — as the Admirals took down the Napa Silverados 10-4 to complete a two-game sweep.
Akins passed Tillman Pugh, who launched 18 last season.
“I guess I can tell Tillman that I’m better than him now,” quipped Akins.
The Admirals made it 4-1 when Akins unloaded over the left-field fence against Napa starter Elvin Liriano. Akins waited at home plate to see if the ball would go fair or foul and finally went into his home-run trot when the ball cleared the wall. Chris Fornaci walked and was aboard on the homer.
The league record for single-season home runs is 31 by San Rafael’s Matt Chavez in 2015. Akins is already tied for fourth all-time in the league in the single season list with Joel Carranza, formerly of Sonoma.
Akins said he wasn’t thinking about breaking the mark over the last 10 days. His 17th and 18th homers came July 8 against the Silverados at Wilson Park. He nearly homered in the next game at Martinez but the ball was caught at the warning track.
“I’ve just been trying to put a good swing on the ball,” Akins said. “The last eight or nine games or so I haven’t been swinging at good pitches. I’ve been swinging and missing a lot so I’ve just been trying to make better contact.”
It was a two-run homer from Chevy Clarke that staked the Admirals to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Liriano. Rian Kiniry walked to lead off the inning and was aboard on the homer.
Napa closed to 2-1 in the fourth when Devon Ramirez reached on an infield single and eventually scored on Zach Taylor’s RBI single. That ended the day for Vallejo starting pitcher Brian McKenna, who made his first start.
Tim Holmes entered the game and retired the final two batters of that inning and all eight batters total to earn the win. Holmes said he made a mechanical adjustment with his motion and thinks he has it figured out.
“The bullpen has been struggling a bit but we know we’re a big part of the team,” Holmes said. “Hopefully, we’ve turned things around a bit the last two games.”
Holmes said he was impressed with fellow reliever Alex Fishberg, who worked the final two innings and retired all six hitters, four by the strikeout.
“Absolutely, he’s a hard thrower and can just throw it by people,” Holmes said.
Even though’s Akins’ homer was the big moment of the game, Vallejo didn’t break it open until a three-run fifth inning as they chased Liriano from the game.
Liriano balked in Vladimir Gomez, who had doubled to start the inning. The Admirals executed a double steal with Brandon Pugh scoring and Akins walked with the bases loaded to force in the seventh run.
Vallejo added three more in the sixth, two on Kiniry’s two-run single to lead 10-1.
Napa made it 10-4 with three in the sixth against dAundray Van Slyke. All three runs were unearned.
For the second straight game, the Admirals picked up a game on first-place San Rafael, which lost its fourth straight, this one an 8-4 loss to last-place Martinez. Vallejo is five games out of first and second-place Sonoma is just two games out.
Notes: The Admirals stole five bases and 10 for the series. … Regular shortstop David Kiriakos was given the day off, only the second game this season he hasn’t started at short. Brandon Fischer started at shortstop with Kiniry moving to second base and Cyle Figueroa at first base. … Gomez and Kiniry both made outstanding defensive plays to take away hits.