By Gabe Schapiro
San Rafael, CA – The Vallejo Admirals (8-14) let a late lead slip away, falling to the San Rafael Pacifics (10-10), 9-4, Friday night, at Albert Park.
For eight of the nine innings played, the Admirals were the better team. Unfortunately, they were not the better team in the bottom of the seventh. The Pacifics batted around, and before the dust had settled, had scored eight runs in the inning, with all of them coming after two outs.
Prior to the explosion, Vallejo appeared to be in control.
After a fairly quiet first three innings, the Admirals broke through in the top of the fourth, thanks in part to some wildness from Pacifics starter Eric Jaffe.
Cerda led off with a walk, the first of five that Vallejo would work in the inning. After a CJ Maldonado free pass, Brad Young stepped to the plate and hit a liner to center field, scoring Cerda from second for the games first run. The Admirals would send 10 men to the plate, and thanks to three more walks, an RBI ground out, and a wild pitch, would leave the inning with a 4-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Vallejo starter Nick Flory was putting together his best start of the season. The only blemish on his outing came in the fifth inning, when a lead off David Kiriakos double eventually came around to score on a Matt Chavez RBI single.
After a quiet sixth inning, Flory departed with a 4-1 advantage.
“He did well,” said manager Garry Templeton II on his lefty. “I think he was able to work in his change up pretty well to keep those guys off balance. And he did what he always does, he worked fast, threw a lot of strikes, pitched to contact, and the defense did a fairly decent job of playing good behind him. So he was able to have some success.”
Unfortunately, Flory’s strong start was squandered in the seventh, when the wheels fell off.
It started inconspicuously enough. Zach Pace led off with a walk, before Brooks Belter got two quick outs via a strikeout and a ground out.
Then things got ugly.
Maikel Jova began the avalanche, reaching on an infield single that scored Pace, who was now at third. A perfect throw might have gotten Jova for the third out, but alas, the inning continued.
The next seven consecutive Pacifics that came to the plate reached base. Three more walks, two of them with the bases loaded, three hits, and a hit by pitch later, and San Rafael didn’t just take the lead, they had broken the game wide open. Derrick Mitchell struck out Matt Chavez, to finally give the Admirals the elusive third out, and mercifully end the inning, with Vallejo now trailing 9-4.
“We were one play away from ending the inning,” said Templeton. “We had a two out, routine ground ball, and the play didn’t get made, and that changed the whole complexion of the inning. I think it was three free passes with two outs, so we sparked their fire. We gave them an opportunity and they took full advantage of it, and that opened up the game.”
After putting up a four spot in the fourth, the Admirals bats were silenced by Pacifics reliever Waren Beras. He entered with two outs in that big fourth frame, allowed a single and surrendered a walk, and then for the final five-and-a-third innings of the game, allowed just one more base runner. He struck out 10 on his way to the victory.
“He came with a little bit of velocity from the left side, which I don’t think we’ve seen before this season,” said Templeton. “His slider was pretty sharp, and we just started swinging at balls out of the zone. I don’t think that he was doing anything to overpower us, he just pitched well, and our hitters didn’t make the adjustments.”
Despite the tough loss, Templeton made sure to keep the game in perspective.
“There are always positives. We played well except for one inning. And it was really even just one out in that one inning. That’s what changed the game. So we just have to put together complete games.”
The Admirals will look to snap their losing streak in game two against San Rafael, tonight at 5:00 PM. Scott Weinschenk takes the mound, trying to play the role of the stopper.