By Matt O’Donnell, Vallejo Times-Herald
A pitcher like Jared Koenig can be maddening for a hot-hitting team like the Vallejo Admirals.
The San Rafael Pacifics lefty takes his time, throws breaking balls in fastball counts and seems to get mentally stronger with men on base.
The Admirals never solved Koenig on Thursday night at Wilson Park and the Pacifics opened the Pacific Association two-game series with a 2-0 win.
Vallejo stranded nine runners overall as Koenig and reliever Chris Mazza worked out of more trouble than Lindsay Lohan on a weekend bender.
“(Koenig) had some good movement on his pitches and we missed some pitches,” said Admirals shortstop David Kiriakos. “You have to tip your hat and bounce back tomorrow.”
Koenig worked 6 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and three walks. He struck out eight batters, many of those in tight situations.
The Pacifics starter locked into a pitching duel with Admirals righty Frank Valentino (1-1), also making his second start. Valentino pitched eight excellent innings, scattering seven hits and striking out eight himself.
The Pacifics took a 1-0 lead in the second as Brent Gillespie lofted a high fly ball to right field that Vladimir Gomez misplayed for a triple. Javion Randle immediately followed with a sharp single to left to score Gillespie.
It would stay that way until the fifth when the speedy DonAndre Clark singled to lead off the inning, stole second, moved to third on Zach Files’ ground ball and scored on Rando Moreno’s sacrifice fly to center.
Vallejo had chances to break through in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings with multiple runners on base. Each time, San Rafael found ways out to escape danger.
Even when the Admirals weren’t squandering opportunities, they had some bad luck as well.
With men at first and second in the sixth inning, Brandon Fischer hit a chopper to Files, the third baseman. The throw was up the line and it looked like it pulled Gillespie, the first baseman, off the bag. Unfortunately for the Admirals, the base umpire ruled that Gillespie kept his foot on the bag and the inning ended.
“I thought I beat it, personally and his foot was off the base,” Fischer said. “Both ways, I thought I was safe.”
Koenig departed after allowing a walk to Chris Fornaci in the seventh and Tillman Pugh greeted Mazza with a single to center to put runners at first and third. Mazza, however, recovered as he struck out Kiriakos on a 3 and 2 pitch to end the threat.
“I was looking for a fastball but (Mazza) threw me a two-seam that was pretty good,” said Kiriakos, the former Pacific. “It was on the inside corner. It was a good pitch that dropped below my barrel. I tip my hat off but next time I’ll be ready.”
The Admirals had one last shot in the ninth against Mazza, who worked 2 1/3 innings for the save. With one out, pinch-hitter Cyle Figueroa doubled to right to bring the tying run to the plate but Mazza struck out pinch-hitter Brett Schneider and Fornaci to end the game.
With 5-2 records, the Admirals and the Pacifics are now tied for first place in the second week of the season. Fischer said the team just had a cold night at the plate and will come back stronger on Friday.
“Timely hitting was the biggest problem we had today besides a few base running errors,” he said. “Other than that, we just have to have those timely hits. We’ll win ball games with those.”
Notes: Thursday was Admirals Pride Night, which benefitted Solano Pride Center as Vallejo players and coaches wore rainbow-colored Pride jerseys for the game. Those jerseys went on a silent auction throughout the evening, with winners of the auction taking that player’s jersey home at the end of the night. … The Pacifics turned an unconventional double play in the third, getting a Pugh strikeout and a 2-4-5-1-6 putout to nail Julian Faria, who drifted off third base.