Walnut Creek Offense Keeps Rolling With the New Kid on the Block
by Justin de Haas
The Walnut Creek Crawdads almost broke the scoreboard at Monte Vista.
Walnut Creek right fielder Brian DuRoff capped off a ten-run fifth inning with a grand slam, which would lead to the revelation that the scoreboard can only insert digits for each inning. The Crawdads were tied with the Solano Mudcats entering the bottom of the fifth, so Walnut Creek (27-6-1, 19-6 CCL) gave itself enough insurance runs to avoid another comeback attempt from Solano (5-27, 4-23) to end up winning 13-9 on Wednesday.
It might be a coincidence that Walnut Creek has scored double-digit runs in second baseman Charlie Welch’s first three games as a Crawdad, but Welch was a major contributor in his first start with the ‘Dads this summer. The second baseman reached base four times with three hits on Wednesday to start the summer with a .857 OBP in his first seven plate appearances.
“I’m seeing the ball pretty well right now,” Welch said. “My first couple at-bats, I’m not overthinking too much, so it’s been pretty easy. Just seeing the ball. See ball. Hit ball. Not thinking too much about the location, just getting up there and swinging hard. Staying disciplined. Not getting out of the zone. I’m swinging at good strikes.”
Welch also made some spectacular plays on defense against the Mudcats. Walnut Creek center fielder Ryan Ellis usually plays second base, but he was moved to the outfield on Wednesday so that the new Crawdad could play in the keystone spot. This move speaks volumes to how much Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings trusts Welch in the middle infield.
“I think defense is honestly my biggest strength,” Welch said. “I’ve always been kind of locked down on that side of the ball. Being locked in every pitch, Can’t take a pitch off. Obviously, when you take a pitch off, that’s when the ball finds you. Staying locked in and making routine plays routinely.”
It took a few innings for the Walnut Creek lineup to get going, but starting pitcher Kody Perry had it figured out from the get-go. It was the starter’s longest outing of the summer with five innings and he had five strikeouts, which is the most he has had in a CCL game. Perry was able to bounce back after he allowed four earned runs in his last outing against the Mudcats on July 9.
After five innings, the Crawdads were rolling with a gem from Perry and a huge cushion from the offensive onslaught in the fifth inning. Similar to Tuesday’s game, the Mudcats decided to score eight runs in the last two innings to make the game much closer than the Crawdads would have liked.
Solano catcher Nate Schwartz and first baseman Josh Pernetti combined for five hits and drove in all nine runs for the Mudcats from the sixth and seventh spots in the lineup. All five hits were extra-base hits, including Pernetti hitting two home runs and Schwartz hitting one out of the park. The Mudcats also had production from third baseman Jake Tandy and shortstop Jeff Hoffman as both had multiple hits, but those were the only hitters to make much contact for Solano.
Scoring nine runs should usually win ball games, but that was not the case for Solano because of pitching and defense. Solano pitchers Brayan Orrantia and Tyler Lamperti allowed all the runs, but nine of them were unearned because an error from Hoffman in the fifth inning left the door open for Walnut Creek’s offensive outburst. The silver lining for the Mudcats is that they only needed to use two pitchers to cover eight innings, so they should have plenty of pitchers available for the last game of the series.
The Crawdads return to Vanden High School to not only sweep the series, but also to finish the season undefeated against Mudcats. Walnut Creek is confident it has what it takes to finish the job.
“Do exactly what we did today,” Welch said. “Score a bunch of runs. Last inning got a little ugly. Other than that, we played good defense and good pitching. It’s a team effort. A team win and just do that tomorrow. We’ll be alright.”