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Walnut Creek Outlasts Alameda in Pitching Duel

by Justin de Haas

It was not so easy for the Walnut Creek Crawdads this time around against the Alameda Anchors.

Many would have predicted that the Crawdads were going to dominate the Anchors after the season opener on June 4 between the two teams ended in a mercy rule in Walnut Creek’s favor. However, an unexpected pitching duel surfaced and the Crawdads were able to come out victorious 4-2 in a much closer game than anticipated against the Anchors.

Alameda starting pitcher Harry Tooze and Walnut Creek starting pitcher EJ McGrew were having their way against the opposing batters. McGrew began the season in the bullpen, but he has started the last few outings and he pitched five innings against the Anchors, which is the most for him in a game this season.

“I was just thinking of attacking hitters all game and getting the first pitch strikes was really huge,” McGrew said. “Keeping it around the zone and getting a lot of early count swings. I let the defense work behind me and I was able to work in a little bit of an extended outing.”

McGrew also has been known for his strikeout stuff, as he had at least three strikeouts in three of his first four outings of the summer. The reliever did not need to miss bats to be successful against Alameda considering that he was awarded Player of the Game despite only having one strikeout.

“Especially after my first year in college, I noticed that if you pitch to the corners that you don’t have to throw that hard,” McGrew said. “I get a lot of weak contact, which I think is my main thing. It’s just getting a lot of weak contact and letting the defense work behind me.”

A big reason why McGrew was able to have his best start of the season without many strikeouts was because he only allowed one walk. The Crawdad allowed three walks in each of his last two starts, but he was able to consistently throw strikes on Friday.

“I was really focusing on being mentally there and making sure I had a good target in mind to attack that point,” McGrew said. “I tried to challenge every time. I wanted everything to be a glove strike and I think that helped me in limiting the walks.”

Tooze was also able to have a productive performance, but his line looked completely different in comparison to McGew. The starter had a lot more strikeouts and walks than his counterpart, with five and four apiece. The Anchor was rolling through four, only allowing one run, but the fifth got to him and he gave up a couple more earned runs in the frame.

There were not many highlights for the Walnut Creek offense with scoring only four runs, but one of them is center fielder Casey Cummings hitting his fifth home run of the season. The solo shot by Cummings was his first homer since June 24 as he still leads the Crawdads in that category. The center fielder was later replaced by Brian DuRoff and he only had one hit on the day, but he definitely made it count.

Both Cummings and DuRoff played at Chabot College last season and their former teammate, Alameda second baseman Brady Wetzel, was the key cog to the offense for the Anchors. Wetzel was on base three times as the leadoff hitter, chipping in two hits and an RBI to set the table for the Alameda offense. The Gladiator had a .318 batting average in 32 games at Chabot and he made a bigger impact on Friday than he did in that game on June 4.

Walnut Creek will get back to the CCL schedule when it takes on the Solano Mudcats in a three-game series starting on Saturday at Monte Vista. The Crawdads are confident that they can win the series if they continue to play the way they are capable of.

“I think if we just come out, throw strikes and limit the free bases, we should be able to put up a bunch of zeros on the pitching side,” McGrew said. “As long as we come out attacking and the hitters are keeping their approach by swinging at balls they like. We should be able to win the series.”

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