It looked like the Walnut Creek Crawdads (4-3 CCL) were going to stomp the Sonoma Stompers (3-5 CCL) at Arnold Field, but Sonoma’s rally in the ninth inning was too little, too late to complete the comeback.
The Crawdads scored a run in every frame except the ninth with three crooked innings sprinkled in between. The offensive outburst was surprisingly necessary after a five-run ninth inning for the Stompers made the Crawdads sweat a little bit in a 13-8 victory.
A key contributor for the offensive onslaught was Walnut Creek second baseman Ryan Ellis, who reached base in all five of his at-bats with four hits. The second baseman has been in the leadoff spot for the last four games and he has made it very difficult for manager Brant Cummings to take him out of that position. Ellis talked about his confidence being at the top of the lineup for the Crawdads.
“I’m very comfortable in that leadoff spot,” Ellis said. “It gives me the chance to set the tone for the guys behind me to drive me in. I like to do anything I can to help the team win.”
It was not just Ellis making noise in the lineup. Cummings put Walnut Creek shortstop Matt King in the cleanup spot despite going hitless during his season debut on Tuesday. That confidence ended up paying dividends for Cummings as King accumulated three hits and five RBI in the victory.
Walnut Creek right fielder Tyson Pointer also had a big night, especially with a three-run homer that knocked Sonoma starting pitcher Riley Phelan out of the game in the third inning. The right fielder was moved down to fifth in the order after hitting below .100 to start the season and he responded in a major way. Obviously the lineup had a huge day and Ellis talked about what made them so successful against the Stompers on Wednesday.
“I think our approach was good,” Ellis said. “Laying off the curveballs and changeups in the dirt. Jumping on fastballs. I think even our outs were loud today. I think that’s just a testament to our approach at the plate.”
Walnut Creek starting pitcher Ryan Spalliero did not have to worry about run support in this one. He talked about how much easier it makes his job when the lineup produces like it did on Wednesday.
“Offense set it off easy,” Spalliero said. “When you know the offense is going to give you some runs, it makes it easier for you to just go out there and make pitches. That’s all I was trying to do today. Not do anything special. You don’t have to be special against people, just throw your best stuff when you can.”
Spalliero was hit by a comebacker on June 7, which affected his performance against the Bay Area Admirals. Clearly the starter was not feeling any lingering effects as he only allowed two hits in four innings of work. Spalliero talked about how he had approached these two outings.
“The routine is starting to get down where I need it to be,” Spalliero said. “I just have to have the same mindset every time I go out. It’s just to get those dudes out and I feel like I did really well with that today.”
It seemed like the game was basically over when the bullpen for the Crawdads cleared out entering the ninth inning with a 13-3 lead. The plan was for Walnut Creek relief pitcher Ryan DeLaney to pitch the last two innings, but that was not how the situation played out. DeLaney allowed some walks and extra-base hits to the point where Ryan Featherston had to get the last two outs after his predecessor allowed five runners to cross the plate.
All the damage was from 4-6 hitters for the Stompers. Sonoma was able to draw 11 walks, three of which came to start that ninth inning, but each player in the heart of the lineup also had multiple hits. Three Stompers combined for seven hits, which was all Sonoma was able to manage off Walnut Creek.
The Crawdads are hoping to win the series when they come back to Monte Vista High School to play the Stompers on Thursday in the series finale.