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That’s All Folks

by Justin de Haas

All good things must come to an end.

The Walnut Creek Crawdads finish their season a little earlier than they would have liked, but they still have a lot to be proud of. The Crawdads had arguably their best season in franchise history and it comes to an end with a 10-7 loss to the Healdsburg Prune Packers in the California Collegiate League North Divisional Game.

There was hope at the beginning with the Crawdads scoring the first run of the game. Healdsburg starting pitcher Pierce George threw 27 pitches in the first inning, including a passed ball that scored Walnut Creek second baseman Ryan Ellis. Walnut Creek was able to strike first, but they also left two runners in scoring position and squandered an opportunity to start the game with a crooked number.

George only went through the order one time, but he was able to keep the Prune Packers in the game and Healdsburg relief pitcher Myles Patton took over. Patton was the winning pitcher with six strikeouts without allowing a run in four innings, which is similar to the numbers he has been posting all summer. Including Wednesday, the reliever has six outings where he pitched at least four innings and had at least six strikeouts this season.

The Healdsburg pitchers also benefited from stellar defense, which has not been the case in some of the previous matchups against Walnut Creek. The Prune Packers averaged four errors a game in their five losses to the Crawdads in the regular season, but the Packers did not have a defensive mistake on Wednesday.

Conversely, the Walnut Creek defense had five errors, which resulted in four of their runs allowed being unearned. The poor defense hurt the Walnut Creek pitching, but the Crawdads also allowed a lot of baserunners. Walnut Creek pitchers Dylan McShane and Cade Cushing have been stalwarts of the staff all season, but they allowed a combined 14 baserunners in less than five innings.

A silver lining of the loss was the performance of Walnut Creek relief pitcher Jackson Howell. The relief pitcher allowed 11 combined runs in his last three outings, but he did not let the Prune Packers score in his 2 ⅓ innings of work. Howell was able to keep the Crawdads in the game in case the “Cardiac Crawdads” made one last appearance.

Howell accidentally hit Walnut Creek right fielder Ivan Brethowr in the head with a pitch in the sixth inning, which seemingly got Brethowr fired up in his next at-bat. The right fielder hit a no-doubt homer to the houses in left field in the eighth inning and proceeded to flip his bat toward the mound, where Walnut Creek relief pitcher Owen Firestone was the new pitcher. Things got heated between the two teams and it nearly escalated into an all-out brawl.

The benches-clearing incident may have given the Crawdads some extra motivation in the ninth inning when Ellis roped a bases-clearing double to cut the deficit in half. This was after Walnut Creek third baseman Matt King hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, making the game a lot more competitive than the Packers would have liked. King and Ellis both finished with three hits and three RBI each in their last push for a comeback attempt.

This would be Walnut Creek’s last breath in what will go into the record books as a magical season for the ‘Dads. It is never easy to say goodbye, but as the author Dr. Seuss once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

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