All good things must come to an end.
The lineup for the Walnut Creek Crawdads did not have a game with less than five runs before Sunday. That changed quickly when the ‘Dads (2-3) only squeezed out two hits in a 7-1 loss to the Sonoma Stompers (3-3).
Walnut Creek has relied on its offense a lot so far this season with the lineup producing at least eight hits in each game, but the batting order let down the Crawdads in the series opener against the Stompers. The Crawdads were able to draw eight walks in the contest, but it was not enough as the Stompers never looked back after a strong start from their offense.
The Stompers scored two runs off Walnut Creek starting pitcher Tyler Wood in the first inning off a two RBI single from Sonoma third baseman Xabier Iparraguirre. Despite the rough first inning, Wood settled down and only allowed two base runners in his other two innings of work to keep the Crawdads in the game.
Sonoma starting pitcher Bryant Thornton struggled with command by allowing four walks in his four innings of work, but he only surrendered a hit and one earned run. The hit was untimely for the Stompers as it came via an RBI single from Walnut Creek second baseman Ryan Ellis in the third inning. Ellis started in the leadoff spot for the second consecutive game despite the return of Walnut Creek center fielder Casey Cummings to the lineup and he rewarded manager Brant Cummings by walking a couple times as well.
The bullpen for the Stompers was very consistent as they allowed their first and only hit in the eighth inning. It seemed like the Crawdads might start a late rally in the eighth with runners on first and second with no outs, but that ceased when Walnut Creek designated hitter Tyson Pointer hit into a double play, which minimized the momentum.
On the other hand, relief pitching was a mixed bag for the Crawdads. EJ McGrew was missing bats left and right with five of his six outs recorded via the strikeout. Conversely, Jackson Howell has not been able to find the strike zone much as he walked three batters in both of his appearances this season, but this time Howell only recorded one out before exiting the contest in the sixth inning.
Even though Walnut Creek struggled on offense, the Crawdads were still in the game only down 3-1 through seven innings. Walnut Creek relief pitcher Ryan DeLaney was able to clean up Howell’s mess by only letting one inherited runner score in the sixth and had a scoreless inning in the seventh. It was not until the Stompers broke the game open in the eighth inning by scoring four runs at DeLaney’s expense to give Sonoma a comfortable cushion.
The Crawdads have an off day on Monday to figure out the Sonoma pitching, but Walnut Creek needs to find some answers soon as it faces the Stompers again three more times this series with the next game on Tuesday at Monte Vista High School.