McShove and Fitzmagic: A Dynamic Duo
by Justin de Haas
The Walnut Creek Crawdads left no doubt when clinching their spot in the California Collegiate League Playoffs.
Walnut Creek already clinched a spot with the Sonoma Stompers losing to the Bay Area Admirals during its game, but the Crawdads still made their mark in Lincoln. The Crawdads (29-6-1, 21-6 CCL) had two pitchers cover eight innings and another offensive outburst to result in a 9-3 victory over the Lincoln Potters (26-19, 13-14 CCL) at McBean Stadium.
It has been a focus for Walnut Creek starting pitcher Dylan McShane to get deeper into games and that is what he did on Friday. The five innings McShane pitched were the most for him this summer, but he also had a personal best with six strikeouts in CCL play. Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings said the starter needed to “throw strikes” after walking four Potters on July 14 and he cut that total in half on Friday.
“Dylan went out and commanded the strike zone and got ahead of hitters,” Walnut Creek relief pitcher Sean Fitzpatrick said. “He was very successful getting ground ball outs and he also punched out six or so through five I guess. He did a really good job of going out there and giving us a chance to win and the offense came through to provide runs for him.”
Fitzpatrick has not pitched since July 15, when he won Player of the Game against the Potters. That rest resulted in another long outing for the reliever as he pitched three innings on Friday. The Crawdad had six strikeouts with no earned runs in his performance, so it is fair to say Fitzpatrick continues to be Lincoln’s kryptonite.
“I just felt really good,” Fitzpatrick said. “I got them a little bit last week because I didn’t throw earlier in the week. A little fresh, threw a ‘pen the other day and felt really good. Came out today and felt really great. I was attacking and competing and good things happened.”
On the other side, it was surprising to see Lincoln starting pitcher Cooper Robinson pitch two innings despite only allowing a hit in his last outing against the Crawdads on July 15, but a similar situation occurred on Friday. Robinson pitched three innings this time, but he did allow three earned runs, which is the most since his outing against the Healdsburg Prune Packers on June 15. The starter pitched longer against the Admirals and Stompers, but that has not been the case against the top two teams in the CCL North Division.
One could argue the Crawdads have been near the top of the division because of their offense. Walnut Creek right fielder Brian DuRoff and first baseman Joey Donnelly were moved to the top of the lineup and they each had three hits. Casey Cummings and Ryan Brome usually hit in the second and third spots in the lineup, but DuRoff and Donnelly seized the opportunity in their absence and the offense did not skip a beat.
DuRoff and Donnelly combined for six of the 13 hits for the Crawdads, but speed was also at the forefront for the ‘Dads. Walnut Creek designated hitter Tyson Pointer had three stolen bases on Friday, which culminates into seven of his 14 stolen bases on the season at McBean.
“That’s just huge,” Fitzpatrick said. “Any time we are getting on base, putting pressure on them in the running game, and making them make mistakes. Whether it is errors or bad pitches. Scoring runs just makes our job as pitchers easy where we can go out there free and not worry about having to be perfect. That was something that was very key to today’s victory.”
The Healdsburg Prune Packers played a non league game on Friday, so the Crawdads inch closer to 1.5 games back of the Packers. The Crawdads will look to take the series against the Potters on Saturday at Monte Vista and they know what is needed to be done to win it.
“Same thing we did today,” Fitzpatrick said. “Offensively, just keep attacking and hitting the ball hard. On the mound, just competing with strike one and strike two.”