PITTSBURG, CALIF. – Pittsburg Diamonds starter Brett Solano atoned for last week’s loss to Martin Cronin and the Admirals by throwing seven shutout innings, and Jordan Van Atta’s fifth-inning RBI double made the difference in a 1-0 Diamonds victory at Winter Chevrolet Stadium. However, the most significant long-term event of the night occurred before the game even started.
Leaving the field after batting practice, Admirals first baseman Graylin Derke was struck on the left temple by an errant baseball, causing a cut to open up above his left eye. Derke remained conscious and alert, and his name appeared in PJ Phillips’ starting lineup, but after consultation with the Pittsburg athletic trainer, he was removed from the game prior to his turn at bat in the top of the first inning.
Julian Faria pinch-hit for Derke, then went in to catch, with original starting catcher Cyle Figueroa taking Derke’s spot at first base. As of late Tuesday evening, Derke was receiving stitches for the cut and undergoing concussion protocol at a Vallejo-area hospital. Entering play tonight, Derke was batting .333 with a 1.090 OPS, three homers and 14 runs batted in.
Even with Derke’s absence, Solano (1-2) was facing a potent lineup that had propelled the Admirals to first place 10 games into the season. Solano was more than equal to the task this evening, though, as he notched seven strikeouts over his seven innings, scattering six Admirals hits and two walks. Vallejo had homered six times in each of its two previous victories at Martinez.
Vallejo starter Martin Cronin took the loss despite pitching effectively, as the only blemish on his record came in that Pittsburg fifth, which opened with a Patrick O’Donnell single. Van Atta doubled into right to score O’Donnell all the way from first base for the game’s only tally. One out later, Austin Fraker reached on an infield double – yes, a double – when a high pop fly between the plate and the mound came to rest without any Vallejo fielders touching the ball. With two out, Cronin walked Morgan Blatnik and gave way to Brett Schneider, who struck out Rafael Valera to end the frame.
Schneider and Jalen Miller backed up Cronin (2-1) with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. It was the first time this season a Vallejo starting pitcher did not finish the fifth inning. From an Admirals perspective, the highlight of the evening came in the Pittsburg sixth, when left fielder d’Aundray Van Slyke scaled the wall to rob Wes Wallace of a home run. Van Slyke climbed the wall in a manner that Joe Rudi, that Oakland A’s outfield wizard of the 1970’s, might approve.
Vallejo had two runners on with one out in the first and fourth innings, but did not put a man on third until the eighth, when Nick Barnese replaced Solano. Barnese allowed a David Kiriakos double and a Nick Akins walk to open the eighth, then gave Faria a free pass with one out to load the bases. (Kiriakos accounted for three of the Admirals’ six hits and also drew a walk to finish the night 3-for-3.) But Vlad Gomez bounced into a 6-4-3 double play and Barnese had squelched the threat. Danny Moskovits pitched a perfect ninth to record his third save.
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