The Walnut Creek Crawdads (3-3 CCL) relied on some new pitching to even the series against the Sonoma Stompers (3-4 CCL).
Walnut Creek utilized Loyola Marymount commit Jackson Flora and Arkansas reliever Sean Fitzpatrick, both of whom made their CCL debuts, to handle the first five innings. The duo combined for no earned runs and seven strikeouts to lead the Crawdads to a 7-4 victory over the Stompers.
Flora is a potential draft prospect out of Foothill High School in Pleasanton with a fastball that consistently hits 92 mph. The recent high school graduate only allowed a hit and walk with four strikeouts in his three innings of work, but he did not receive much help from Walnut Creek center fielder Casey Cummings, who dropped a ball in center that resulted in two unearned runs for Flora.
Fitzpatrick only pitched 2 ⅔ innings for the Razorbacks this past season, but he was missing plenty of bats against the Stompers on Tuesday. The Razorback had three strikeouts in two innings along with a hit and walk to keep the game tied for the Crawdads.
The Crawdads may have had some new faces pitching today, but the Stompers had one of their more reliable starters on the mound. Sonoma starting pitcher Orlando Leon Jr. was a CCL all-star last summer and pitched like one against the Crawdads. Leon Jr. retired 11 straight batters at one point and was cruising through five until he had to get pulled in the sixth with a couple runners on base. Sonoma relief pitcher Garrett James allowed an inherited runner to score, which gave the Crawdads the lead and eventually pinned the loss on Leon Jr.
Another reliable player in the CCL last year was Walnut Creek designated hitter Ryan Brome. Brome had a .363 batting average last season, but he got off to a slow start this summer as he was only hitting .200 entering Tuesday. The designated hitter has not lost any confidence and he referenced how he also started slow last summer, but obviously he turned it around and this game against Sonoma might be the turning point of his season.
Brome had three hits against the Stompers and he started off strong with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Crawdad talked about what he saw in that first inning at-bat.
“The guy was mixing pretty good,” Brome said. “Brant always tells me I’m one of the better guys with runners on. That’s because I just take a little off and really put an emphasis on putting balls in play. He hung a slider a little bit and sure enough it went.”
Walnut Creek was able to bounce back after only managing two hits against Sonoma on Sunday. Despite the lack of hits, Brome alluded to the hard contact he and his teammates made against the Stompers.
“I wouldn’t even say we struggled against them last time,” Brome said. “We showed two hits against them last time. I mean, to be honest, we hit the ball really well. We just hit the ball right at guys. Got it going a little bit today. Their defense was a little bit slower. I mean, sure enough, seven runs is going to win you most games.”
Seven runs was certainly enough with how good the pitching was for the Crawdads. Walnut Creek will hope to carry this into Wednesday’s matchup against Sonoma at Arnold Field and Brome talked about what they need to do to win the series.
“We just have to keep putting the pressure on them,” Brome said. “I like watching guys run. Steal bags. It creates a lot of pressure. You see it in tonight’s game. Twice we had guys trying to take second. Trying to take third. It creates a hole, myself included, that gets guys hits. Gets guys on and provides runs.”