By Gabe Schapiro
Vallejo, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (10-22) didn’t score a run until the sixth, but a late barrage overwhelmed the Sonoma Stompers (16-16) on the way to a 9-4 victory, Saturday night, at Wilson Park.
Coming into the contest, the script didn’t appear to be set up for a prelude to an Admirals win. Vallejo had scored just one run against Sonoma starter Santos Saldivar over 19 innings this season. To make matters worse, the Admirals best and most consistent hitter, PJ Phillips, got his first day off this season as he battled an illness. And for the cherry on top, Vallejo starter Kenny McDowall was fresh off of a pair of rough outings.
On this night, however, the Admirals decided to flip the script.
“I had a little extra motivation after my last two outings weren’t that good,” explained McDowall, “so I knew I had to come out and throw strikes and put up zeros, or at least try to anyway.”
And sure enough, McDowall provided the first sign that things might not go according to what the Stompers hoped was the plan. The at times wild righty came out of the gate pounding the strike zone. While he wouldn’t ultimately factor into the decision, he would keep the Admirals within striking distance, tossing six-and-two-thirds solid frames, allowing four runs, while striking out nine, and perhaps most importantly, walking none.
Unfortunately, in the early going it did look like it would be more of the same for Vallejo’s offense against the stingy Saldivar. He had a shutout working through five innings, before the Admirals turned on the switch, scoring a whopping nine runs in the final three innings. It was a true team effort, with eight-of-nine starters recording at least one hit.
After entering with a tie, Derrick Mitchell came out of the bullpen to finish things off, earning his team leading fourth win.
The Stompers got on the board first, scoring single runs in the second and fourth innings. Heading into the sixth, the Admirals had mounted threats, but had been unable to capitalize, and found themselves in a 2-0 hole.
In the bottom half of the inning, however, the floodgates began to open.
Glenn Walker and Josh Wong got the rally started with a walk and a rare catchers obstruction call. Lydell Moseby, Tyler Nordgren, and Jordan Berry would follow with a single, double, and a single respectively, plating four runs, and giving the Admirals their first lead of the night.
“They saw him a couple times through the order, and figured out his rhythm and his timing,” said manager Garry Templeton II. “We had some timely hits, and that’s what it’s about. Being able to get those timely hits with runners on base is how we need to score runs.”
McDowall came out for his seventh inning of work, but couldn’t get out of the inning after allowing the tying runs to score. Despite not ending on a positive note, the Nevada native threw well in an encouraging bounce back start.
“He got back to his mechanics,” said Templeton, “and he stopped trying to pick so much and trying to strike guys out with the first pitch. He was able to split the plate in half and use more of the plate to make his pitches effective. He has swing and miss stuff, but it has to be in the zone.”
Their previous four-spot had chased Saldivar from the game, and in the bottom half of the inning they picked up right where they left off, now against reliever Erik Gonsalves
Walker and Mason Morioka smacked back-to-back doubles, setting the tone and scoring what would ultimately be the winning run. Before the dust settled, the Admirals would send 10 men to the plate, making Gonsalves throw an amazing 55 pitches in the single frame on the way to another four runs, and an 8-4 lead.
For good measure, they added a ninth run in the eighth on a Josh Wong RBI single, giving them a lead that even a Sonoma grand slam couldn’t catch.
Sure enough, the Stompers would load the bases in the ninth, before Mitchell got Daniel Baptista to hit a routine ground ball to second to end it.
“You don’t expect us to score that many runs with PJ not being in the lineup,” said Templeton with a laugh. “I think we’re at a point in the season where the guys are realizing that if they want to play again next year they have to step their game up. Some guys are starting to play a little bit better and a little harder. And obviously with PJ out of the lineup everyone knows they have to step up a little bit, because he’s been the main guy providing us production.”
“We definitely needed guys to step up without one of our best hitters in the lineup,” added McDowall. “And they definitely did that. It took them some time to start rallying, but we got to them, got into their bullpen, and took care of business.”
Vallejo will look to complete the sweep this afternoon, in the final game of this three game series against Sonoma, and the final time the Admirals will see them this season. The action gets underway at 1:00 PM.