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Walnut Creek’s Short Run in First

by Justin de Haas

It looked like the “Cardiac Crawdads” were back, but they received a taste of their own medicine instead.

The Walnut Creek Crawdads took their first lead of the game in the eighth inning with relief pitcher Dylan McShane coming in for the six-out save, but the script did not go as planned for the ‘Dads. A victory from the Healdsburg Prune Packers and the walk-off RBI single from catcher Isaiah Velazco of the Sonoma Stompers (23-21, 15-18 CCL) hands the Crawdads (32-9-1, 24-9 CCL) a 5-4 loss that puts the ‘Dads back to second place in the California Collegiate League North Division.

McShane has been in the starting rotation since July 6 and was coming off his best outing of the summer on July 21 against the Lincoln Potters. Walnut Creek manager Brant Cummings entrusted his relief pitcher to close out the last two innings, but trouble ensued. The Crawdad would be pinned with the loss, but it was not entirely his fault.

Two of the three runs McShane allowed were unearned because of an errant throw to first base from Walnut Creek second baseman Ryder Helfrick, which would have been the final out of the inning. Getting the first two outs was not an issue for the pitcher in either of his innings, but that third out was seemingly allusive in both frames. The reliever allowed three straight baserunners in each the eighth and ninth to let the Stompers take the game.

These last two innings overshadow the six straight zeros Walnut Creek pitchers EJ McGrew and Wilbur Berrios put on the scoreboard. McGrew has been with the Crawdads for the entire season and has several strong performances throughout the summer, but Berrios shined in his second outing with Walnut Creek. Berrios only allowed one baserunner in each of his innings, keeping a Walnut Creek lineup that mustered two runs through seven innings in the game.

Berrios was in line for the win with the Crawdads taking the lead in the eighth inning, but that did not come to fruition. Walnut Creek center fielder Cole Fellows was the only Crawdad to get multiple hits, which is a big reason why Walnut Creek could only scratch together four runs. The ‘Dads scored at least five runs in 13 of their last 14 games, so the offense faced some unusual struggles against the Stompers.

Sonoma pitchers Chase Minor and Aidan Colin were the source of those Walnut Creek offensive struggles, combining for 11 strikeouts in the first seven innings. Minor has now pitched at least four innings while allowing two runs or less in his last five outings, facing each team in the CCL North in those appearances. Three innings is the most Colin has pitched in a game this year, but he has not allowed a run since July 10.

The Sonoma pitching was exquisite, but the Stompers also had three batters with multiple hits. The walk-off hero Velazco and Sonoma third baseman Michael Bell, who had a two-run home run off McGrew in the first inning, combined for half of Sonoma’s hits. The Stompers have been averaging a little over six runs in their last five games, so Friday’s effort was right around where they have been scoring lately.

Walnut Creek can not dwell on this loss because the ‘Dads still control their own destiny. The Crawdads can still clinch the first seed if they win the last two games of the season, which begins on Saturday when the ‘Dads can get revenge on the Stompers at Monte Vista. If the Prune Packers lose on Saturday, the Crawdads would only need to win one more game, but the ‘Dads don’t want to have to rely on the Packers.

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