The Cardiac Crawdads Find New Ways to Complete Comeback Victories
by Justin de Haas
The Walnut Creek Crawdads, also known as the “Cardiac Crawdads”, find new ways to complete comeback victories.
Walnut Creek stranded the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth inning, but they made sure to not squander another opportunity in a hectic ninth inning. A catcher’s interference with the bases loaded from catcher Bronson Balholm of the Solano Mudcats and a walk-off two RBI single from Walnut Creek left fielder Cole Fellows gave the Crawdads (21-5-1, 13-5 CCL) a 4-3 victory over the Solano Mudcats (5-20, 4-16 CCL) at Monte Vista.
The Crawdads only mustered four runs with three in the ninth inning, but they hit some balls hard that won’t show in the statsheet. Walnut Creek shortstop Griffin Harrison scorched a ball to right field with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, but a diving catch by Solano right fielder Mike Benevides saved a couple runs from scoring and ended the inning. This was also the case for Walnut Creek designated hitter Brian DuRoff, who barreled a couple balls to the warning track, but the wind was blowing in and prevented either one from going out. However, this was not the case for the walk-off single from Fellows.
“I think that’s my first walk-off,” Fellow said. “I hit a couple other balls hard today and none of them found a hole. It just so happened to be the ball that I didn’t hit that hard fell in there and it happened to be at a good time. I’m happy that we got it done.”
Solano starting pitcher Karon Casey was fortunate that some of those hard-hit balls did not result in hits as he was carving through the Walnut Creek lineup on Saturday. Casey earned a quality start allowing three hits and two walks with one earned run in six innings. The Mudcat was in line for the win, but Solano relief pitcher Brendan Morris blew the save and the Crawdads were happy to see Casey out of the game.
“He was just doing a good job of mixing it up,” Fellows said. “He was throwing two pitches for strikes. First at-bat, he might start you with a breaker and the next at-bat he might go for a heater for the first pitch, so he was just keeping us off time. All we were thinking was if we could get him out of the game and get to their bullpen because we didn’t know what they had.”
On the other side, Walnut Creek starting pitcher Ryan Rissas avoided the loss after having a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Rissas allowed a couple runs in the fifth inning, but the second run was unearned off an error from first baseman Joey Donnelly after he dropped the throw from third baseman Matt King to give the Mudcats the lead. The starter made his second start with the Crawdads, which was a nice bounceback after allowing four earned runs in three innings against the Bay Area Admirals on July 1.
“I didn’t even realize he had a no-hitter going through five,” Fellows said. “That just goes to show how much of a groove he was in. It was up and down. It felt like the pace of play was great. Like I said with their pitcher, throwing two or three pitches for strikes. It is a good way to get hitters off balance and force weak contact.”
Rissas was going to be tagged with the loss because he lacked run support in his outing as the Crawdads only scored one run in the first eight innings. This could be why Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings decided to deploy sacrifice bunts in the eighth and ninth innings. Both bunts were executed perfectly by moving the runners into scoring position, but they didn’t score in the eighth and a walk from King would have advanced the runners in the ninth anyways.
Walnut Creek is 2-0 against Solano this season, but their run differential is +3 in those games. These games have been closer than expected considering that the Crawdads are tied for the second-best record in the CCL and the Mudcats have the worst record in the entire league. The Crawdads are hoping to change that narrative and win the series when they go to Vanden High School for the first time this season to face the Mudcats.