The Walnut Creek Crawdads understand that the seemingly indomitable Healdsburg Prune Packers appear next on the CCL schedule, but they did not play down to the Sacramento Heat in a non league matchup on Sunday.
Sacramento teased a potential comeback with three runs in the seventh inning, but Walnut Creek relied on an outstanding outing from starting pitcher Tyler Wood, who was nearly perfect in his five innings of work. Walnut Creek extended its undefeated streak to nine straight games and have not lost a non league game this season, which continued with a 5-3 victory over Sacramento.
The only mistake Wood made was hitting Sacramento left fielder Jake Richardson with a pitch in the fifth inning, but even that was controversial as the Crawdads believed the ball hit the knob of the bat with how far it ricocheted. Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings has trusted Wood to be his Sunday starter this summer and the righty rewarded his manager with a phenomenal performance against the Heat. Wood clearly had conviction with his pitches, but the defense also did not commit any errors during the starter’s outing.
“I felt good out there,” Wood said. “I had all three pitches for a strike and just was trying to work ahead. I had some great defense behind me. Got to shout out Joey Donnelly for a few great plays. Everything seemed to go well.”
Speaking of great defense, the Crawdads may have solidified their middle infield with the way shortstop Jon Jon Gazdar and second baseman Ryan Ellis played against the Heat. Not only was their defense solid, but they combined for six hits — including Gazdar going 4-4 — at the top of the batting order to set the table for the heart of the lineup.
Another notable performance from Sunday’s game was Walnut Creek third baseman Max Farfan hitting his third home run in the last four games. Farfan’s power surge has come after previously hitting under .100 in CCL play, but he credits tweaks in his swing that have given him recent success. Walnut Creek scored in each of the first three innings to give Wood five runs of support, which made a big difference in his performance.
“Yeah, it’s huge,” Wood said. “As a pitcher, your favorite thing to do is have a shutdown inning when your team scores and you just want to go back out and get the bats back in their hands as soon as possible.”
The Crawdads needed those five runs because Sacramento was able to put pressure on the Walnut Creek bullpen. Walnut Creek relief pitcher Ryan Featherston struggled in the seventh inning allowing five Heat hitters on base, but he was marred by poor defense as the Crawdads committed two errors in the frame. The Crawdads have three comeback wins this week and they almost got a taste of their own medicine on Sunday.
Walnut Creek can now turn its attention to Healdsburg, who lost its first game of the season on Sunday to the Solano Mudcats. The Crawdads play a three-game series against the Prune Packers from June 27-29 with the first two games at Monte Vista High School. The ‘Dads understand the importance of this series and are confident in their ability to potentially control first place in the CCL North division.
“We jump out early on teams,” Wood said. “We’ve got to do that. Our pitching has been lights out. If we combine those two, we will give them a run for their money.”