The first matchup of a three-game series between the Bay Area Admirals and the Walnut Creek Crawdads was heated in more ways than one.
The temperature in Danville was 95 degrees Fahrenheit at first pitch and the game was chippy with a couple Bay Area coaches getting tossed by umpire Robbie Headley in the top of the fifth inning. Not only was it hot outside, but the offenses were scorching early in the game with the Crawdads (16-4-1, 10-4 CCL) defeating the Admirals (10-13, 8-12 CCL) 9-5 at Monte Vista.
Walnut Creek was burned from a five-run third inning in Thursday’s game against the Healdsburg Prune Packers and it seemed like déjà vu on Friday. An error from Walnut Creek third baseman Max Farfan in the second inning caused three unearned runs to cross the plate, making it a four-run second inning for the Admirals. It was not Farfan’s finest day in the hot corner as he had both of Walnut Creek’s errors.
The Crawdads responded in the third with a five-run inning of their own to take the lead back. A two-run double from first baseman Joey Donnelly and an inside-the-park home run from left fielder Cole Fellows scored three more runs to give the Crawdads the early advantage. Fellows was able to round the bases after Bay Area left fielder Seth Gwynn ran into the wall trying to track the ball, but Gwynn had to leave the game after injuring himself on the play.
“I hit it and I saw the guy running back on it,” Fellows said. “I thought he was going to catch or hit off the wall. I saw it hit off the wall and thought I had my double. I saw the guy was on the ground and I hear RyLo [third base coach Ryan Lovato] wheeling like this and I think I’ll go to third. He tells me to keep going and I end up at home plate.”
This would be all the run support the Crawdads would need with the bullpen shutting it down, allowing one run in seven innings. Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings planned for it to be a bullpen game with seven Crawdads available out of the pen and four of them were used. Walnut Creek relief pitchers Nate Nordell and Sean Fitzpatrick were able to carry the bulk of the innings, combining to allow four hits and no walks in 5 ⅓ innings with the latter getting the save after getting out of an inherited bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning with no runs.
“They were able to fill it up and get the outs, which was good,” Fellows said. “Even when they didn’t fill it up and had a couple walks, they didn’t let those guys score. They got their ground balls. They locked back in and got their outs.”
The Crawdads would add on with a solo shot from catcher Sam Gilliam that went over the scoreboard in left field along with a couple more runs. After getting shut out in the last game against Healdsburg, the offense exploded with 14 hits with every player in the starting lineup getting a hit and five of them attaining multiple knocks.
Walnut Creek will look to win the series on Saturday at Solano College, a place they have been three times already this season. There is a lot of familiarity with these teams playing five times in the first 14 games this season.
“It’s nothing we haven’t done before,” Fellows said. “We played there and have won games there. We just have to keep throwing strikes and keep hitting balls hard.”