In a world where everything is online, there was not much to find for the South Bay Storm.
The Storm do not have a head coach nor an official roster on the internet. There were only 13 players on the South Bay squad, but the Storm were only down one run for most of the game until the Walnut Creek Crawdads extended the lead with five runs in the seventh inning to earn a 7-2 victory.
Walnut Creek left fielder Joey Donnelly produced a majority of the runs for the Crawdads with his two hits and four RBI on Friday. It was Donnelly’s two-run double that gave Walnut Creek the lead in the bottom of the first inning and the Crawdads would not relinquish said lead for the rest of the game. Donnelly talked about how he was able to be a catalyst in the lineup to get some runs on the board.
“They had some guys struggling to throw strikes,” Donnelly said. “We don’t know much about them. You’ve got to wait. Make sure you get your pitch to hit and you just can’t miss them, especially with runners in scoring position.”
A big reason why the Crawdads never squandered the lead was because the Walnut Creek pitching only allowed four hits to the Storm, with none of the South Bay hitters gathering multiple hits. Walnut Creek pitchers EJ McGrew and Kody Perry combined for six innings and one earned run, with the latter getting six strikeouts in his three innings of work. Donnelly talked about how the pitching staff was able to be effective despite not knowing much about the Storm.
“Especially with a team like this, they were not smoking balls,” Donnelly said. “You’ve just got to be around the zone and I thought our guys did a great job. I can’t really remember too many walks. They’ve kept them around the zone. Forced a lot of weak contact and it makes it easy on the defense.”
McGrew and Perry were doing their job despite only two runs of support from the Walnut Creek offense through the first six innings. That all changed in the seventh inning when the Crawdads provided five insurance runs off of South Bay relief pitcher Ethan Stout to give Walnut Creek a cushion in the late innings. Donnelly talked about how the offense was able to turn a switch in that seventh inning to break the game open.
“We don’t really know how their pitchers are before the game,” Donnelly said. “Not sure what they are going to give us, so you kind of have to figure it out as you go. As you can see, it took us a little bit to get going, but eventually the bats got hot and we started scoring runs.”
Walnut Creek second baseman Jon Jon Gazdar started off the seventh inning with a single and stolen base to ignite the five-run rally. Gazdar made his Walnut Creek debut on Thursday after having a .308 batting average in 214 at-bats at Austin Peay State University in the 2023 season. The Governor’s single in the seventh was his only hit in the game, but the fact that Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings put Gazdar in the leadoff spot for his first CCL game speaks volumes to the level of confidence the Crawdads have in the second baseman.
The Crawdads have not lost since June 11 and they hope to keep that rolling when they face the CCL affiliate Bay Area Admirals on Saturday at Solano College in what will be their first CCL game since June 20. Donnelly talked about what he expects in the matchup against the Admirals.
“I feel like we haven’t seen a CCL team in a long time,” Donnelly said. “You’ve got to be ready to see some better competition than we have probably been seeing in the last 10 days or so. I think we will be ready. We’ve just got to make sure we come out swinging. Come out throwing strikes and I think we will be good.”