By Annika Bereny
DANVILLE, CA—The Walnut Creek Crawdads (2-2) defeated the Solano Mudcats (0-2) 5-3 Saturday afternoon to even up their conference record. Strong pitching combined with the growing confidence and cohesion within the team helped propel the ‘Dads to victory against Solano.
Coming out swinging in the bottom of the first inning, a double by Ryan Brome (Texas Tech) off of the centerfield wall brought in his fellow Crawdad, Ryan Ellis of St. Mary’s College, to put Walnut Creek on the scoreboard first. With the promotion of the game promising dirt cups, a chocolate dessert, for Crawdads fans in attendance, Walnut Creek got down and dirty, swiping bases left and right. Ryan Brome stole third and was brought home by Tyson Pointer’s groundout, giving the Crawdads a 2-0 lead early on.
Despite their early lead, though, the Solano Mudcats proved an even match for the ‘Dads. Rallying back in the second, they scratched one across after first baseman Jake Tandy (University of the Pacific) scored on a single by designated hitter (and later pitcher!) Bryan Orrantia (New Mexico Junior College). Catcher Bronson Balholm (Arizona State) singled to first base in the top of the third as the Mudcats clawed their way back from their 0-2 deficit for the lead.
Entering the game, Mudcats pitcher Chase Banks was a player that the Crawdads were no doubt keeping their eye on. Known as one of the many ‘Crawdad killers’ of the California Collegiate League (CCL), the rightie out of Sonoma State had, in his history against them, only given up 4 walks to Walnut Creek. Though he was able to hold the ‘Dads scoreless through three innings, a rally in the 5th began to create trouble for Banks.
Tyson Pointer (University of Texas-San Antonio), the designated hitter and RBI leader on Saturday afternoon, scored three of the five runs for the Crawdads, including the tying run in the fifth as well as the winning run in the seventh. Named one of the players of the game by Walnut Creek head coach Brant Cummings, Pointer has proved an offensive catalyst for the Crawdads so far this season.
Of his go-ahead sacrifice flyout, a self-professed highlight of his game, Pointer later recalled that as he stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and the score tied, he reflected on what he had always been told to do in a situation like this. “Just do it as early as possible to get the run in,” he said. “Stay simple, stay direct to the ball and swing.”
Pointer’s counterpart on the pitching staff, co-player of the game, was Ryan Featherston, the 18-year-old soon-to-be freshman at the University of Oregon. On the heels of his high school graduation, Featherston pitched two scoreless innings for the Crawdads, striking out three Mudcats while he was at it. Following his very first win as a pitcher for the Crawdads, he looks to improve on his command of pitches, limiting free bases as much as possible.
The final statline of the game had the two teams with 8 hits and 1 error each, marking the matchup as a fairly even pairing. As the season progresses and both teams gain experience, their rematches will surely be ones to watch.
Wrapping up their first week of this summer season, the Crawdads players are getting more comfortable with each other by the day as the camaraderie grows between them. “We’re all getting closer and it’s a lot of fun with all of these guys,” Featherston said. “I wouldn’t want to be on any other team.”
The Crawdads look to gain a winning record as they face off against the Sonoma Stompers Sunday at 1 pm, beginning a best-of-four series against their northern opponents.