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Stayin’ Alive

by Justin de Haas

The Walnut Creek Crawdads still control their destiny.

Walnut Creek has already won the season series against the Healdsburg Prune Packers, but the Crawdads are not satisfied yet. The ‘Dads (31-8-1, 23-8 CCL) inch closer to first place in the California Collegiate League North division with a 8-2 victory over the Packers (36-8 24-8 CCL) at Recreation Park.

It was not clear who Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings was going to choose to start on Wednesday, but he ultimately decided on right-handed pitcher Kody Perry. The starter was coming off his best performance of the summer, when he allowed one earned run in five innings of work against the Solano Mudcats on July 19. Perry replicated that outing with his only run against the Prune Packers coming off a sacrifice fly from Healdsburg designated hitter Connor Charpiot.

Healdsburg has also been the team Perry has the most success against this summer. The Crawdad has seven strikeouts in his seven innings against the Prune Packers, and that is not necessarily a coincidence. The righty’s primary pitch is his changeup and it gave the Packers some issues in the box.  

“They were hunting fastballs out there, so just get some offspeed,” Perry said. “I flipped in a curveball a couple times just to see something different. I know my fastball is not as hard as other guys. It really snuck up on them a little bit when they didn’t see fastballs…  I mean that changeup. I think it’s the greatest pitch in baseball. It looks like the fastball but it just dives down. We stuck with it all the way and it’s been working out.”

Perry did hit three batters and the last one caused Cummings to check on his pitcher for a mound visit with runners on first and second in the fifth inning. Cummings kept Perry in the game and he struck out Healdsburg right fielder Damian Bravo to escape the jam. The starter showed some emotion with the roar of a lion as he walked back to the dugout.

“I knew it was my last outing of this summer,” Perry said. “I’m very grateful for all the Crawdads have done for me. I really geared up on that fastball. I just left it all out there on that last pitch. It was more like gratitude. It’s over, but I was just like ‘let’s go’ and wanted to get this team going.”

Perry handed the baton off to right-handed pitcher Ryan Troye and he was able to give the Crawdads another three innings of work. Troye allowed one run to the Prune Packers and he has only allowed multiple runs in a game once since June 16, with the exception being when he won Player of the Game despite giving up four runs to the Solano Mudcats on July 18.

On the other side, it seemed like Perry’s counterpart was going to be Healdsburg right-handed pitcher Wyatt Tucker, but manager Joey Gomes switched to right-handed pitcher Devin Kirby instead. Kirby pitched the first couple innings, but Tucker took over the bulk relief role and they combined for six innings of work. Healdsburg allowed eight runs, but only half of them were earned because the Packers had five errors.

Healdsburg had some self-inflicted wounds, but the Walnut Creek offense was also firing on all cylinders early in the game. The catalyst was Walnut Creek right fielder Brian DuRoff, who reached base four times with three hits and scored a couple runs. DuRoff has been hitting second in the batting order for the last five games, which has paid dividends as he has nine hits in that second spot.

Walnut Creek is a 0.5 game back of Healdsburg and can take the top spot in the CCL North with a win against the Packers on Thursday. The Crawdads come back to Monte Vista, where they are 3-0 against the Prune Packers, with the hope of sweeping the series.

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