By Gabe Schapiro
Pittsburg, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (13-26, 3-3) and Pittsburg Diamonds (18-20, 3-3) engaged in what would be the definition of a crazy contest, with the Admirals persevering through the chaos and winning 10-8, Thursday night, at City Park Field.
The victory gave Vallejo the series win, but this rubber match couldn’t have been more different from the first two games of the series. Each were low scoring pitchers duels decided by one run. It remained close once again, but for very different reasons.
This wild one featured multiple lead changes, at least one run scored in all but two innings, neither starter getting past the fourth inning, 10 total pitchers used, six errors, a balk, three heated ejections, two injuries, two first career hits, and Vallejo being forced to get rid of the DH spot, resulting in a pair of relievers getting their first at bats of the season.
A four-run seventh inning would prove to be the difference maker for the Admirals, as it finally gave them the lead for good. Reliever Josh Evans took home the W, while closer Bryan Escanio notched his seventh save of the season.
In the first sign that things might get a little strange, it took the Admirals just six pitches to equal their scoring output from the previous night.
Chad Bunting continued his hot start with his new club, singling for the first hit of the game. PJ Phillips then stepped to the plate, and deposited the delivery over the left field wall for a two-run shot.
That was just the beginning of the scoring barrage. The Diamonds answered with one in their half of the first, the two sides traded single runs in the second, and Pittsburg added two more in the third, to give them their first lead, at 4-3.
Manager Garry Templeton II wasted no time going to his bullpen, pulling starter Tony Guerra after three.
“I liked the way our bullpen came in,” said Templeton. “I thought that they did a good job even though the score doesn’t necessarily reflect that. But they kept us close enough to where the game never got out of hand, and we were always in striking distance. And we had our bats alive tonight, so our offense carried us through while our pitching kept us close enough.”
The top of the fourth inning would prove to be significant for a number of reasons. Newcomer Jordan Berry led off the inning with his first career professional hit, a hard hit single up the middle. That began a rally that culminated in another Bunting base knock, a single that drove in two, to recapture the Admirals lead. And finally, to put an exclamation point on a night that saw both sides have continuous problems with the umpires, second baseman Glenn Walker and pitching coach Demetrius Banks were both tossed.
The dust eventually settled, and the contest continued, with the momentum briefly swinging back in the Diamonds favor.
Vallejo added another run in the fifth, only to surrender two in bottom of the inning, and two more in the sixth. That brought the ever-changing score to an 8-6 Pittsburg advantage, as the Admirals would once again had to fight back.
And fight back they would.
In the seventh inning, Vallejo came up with the biggest offensive outburst of the night, providing the finishing blow that would put away the feisty Diamonds for good.
Josh Wong got the rally started with a walk. Outfielder Kyle Hayman joined the hit parade, coming up with his own first career professional hit, a single up the middle. That put runners at first and second with no outs, setting things up for Berry.
“I went up there and Garry asked me to bunt. He asked me if I could get the bunt down, and I told him that I didn’t bunt much in college, but yeah I can bunt. And then the first pitch of course I don’t get one down,” said Berry with a laugh, “so he looks at me and tells me to swing away. The pitcher had good velocity but was flat. So I just cleared my mind and got my hands ready, and tried to keep the approach up the middle. He threw away, and I got my hands inside and just went with it.”
He sent the pitch up the gut for his second hit of the night, driving in Wong for his first career RBI. The very next hitter, CJ Maldonado, tied the game up at 8-8 with a long RBI single towards the gap. Gadiel Baez knocked in the go ahead run after reaching on a fielder’s choice, and he himself would come around to score after stealing third base, and forcing an errant throw that sailed into the outfield.
“It was good to see those guys come around and starting to find their swings and find their bearings,” said Templeton on the bottom of the order getting the job done. “We’re going to need those guys down the stretch to be able to hit consistently, so it’s good to see them making solid contact and having good quality at bats.”
The four run rally gave the Admirals a 10-8 lead. Steve Thompson and Escanio picked the right time to calm the storm, working a painless eighth and ninth innings to seal the chaotic victory.
“It was a crazy game with a lot of ups and downs, emotions were flaring and everything else,” said Templeton after the win. “But we persevered and fought through it. I liked the fight that the guys showed. There wasn’t any point that they gave up. We just kept fighting and continued to score runs, and ended up with the win.”
“Baseball can be a crazy game,” added Berry. “One day you’re in and out in nine innings and there’s three hits. The next day there’s a ton of errors and hits, shenanigans and people getting tossed, long innings and arguments and weird plays. But more than anything else you just have to stay focused, keep grinding, take it one pitch at a time, and tune out everything else. It was good to see the boys come back. It was a good win. That’s team character right there, so it’s something good to build off of.”
The Admirals now travel back home, as they begin a three game set against these same Diamonds. The action gets underway tonight at 7:00 PM.