Geoff Safford, Media Relations Assistant
A ball hit near the end of the end of the bat by Brandon Williams sailed into the left field bleachers and put the Pittsburg Diamonds ahead 4-3 in the 11th inning of a game that was suspended from July 4. It seemed like the only audible sound was coming from the Diamonds dugout as they celebrated the fact that they had the lead. The Stompers would go down quietly in the bottom half of the inning and Pittsburg took the game. There was a break in between games, and the Stompers headed back to the clubhouse to prepare for the regularly scheduled contest. The clubhouse was as silent as Arnold Field was after what occurred.
No Stompers were playing music or games of Mario Kart like they usually do before games. The team knew that they had lost an opportunity. A loss meant the Stompers had only a one game lead in the Pacific Association first half standings. But none of the Stompers seemed fazed, or panicked. Once the second game did begin, it did not take the Stompers long to rewrite the script from the first game.
Taylor Thurber was tasked with being the stopper for Sonoma in only his second start of the season. The young right-hander had pitched beautifully in the pen in late inning situations, but this may have been the most important start a Stompers pitcher had to make all season. Sonoma desperately needed a win to keep the pressure off themselves, and to stay in the outright lead in the Pacific Association. Thurber did not disappoint, as a dominant start has put Sonoma a win away from a first half title.
Thurber took a shutout into the eighth and allowed only one earned run in that inning. In his eight complete innings, he allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out eight, as his command and tempo kept the Diamonds off balanced. Sonoma’s offense was able to provide more than enough as the Stompers bounced back in a 6-2 victory.
Matt Hibbert reached base all four times he came to the plate, scoring three times in all, with the first coming on a solo homer on the very first pitch he saw from Chris Cummins. Hibbert knew the importance of the role he plays as the lead off man for this club on this night, “I know that when I get on base, it jumpstarts this offense and sets the tone for the entire club. It makes their job a lot easier when I have success. It’s all about helping the team and winning ballgames. I feel that I have something to build on after tonight,” said Hibbert.
Jose Flores shut the door on the Diamonds in the ninth and even though it was not a save situation, Flores definitely made his presence felt. He had made five starts before making his first appearance out of the pen Tuesday, as he had been up and down and struggled with command. But Flores found a new swagger on this night with a devastating fastball that touched 95 miles per hour on the radar gun. Sonoma may have just found the right role for the former Brewer farmhand.
With the win, Sonoma (21-16) now leads Pittsburg (19-18) by two games in the Pacific Association with two games left to play in the first half. The task is now simple for the Stompers: If they win one of the remaining games, Sonoma will win the first half pennant for the second straight season. Sean Conroy is scheduled to pitch next in the rotation, and will be coming off one of the most spectacular outings that have been seen in the history of the Pacific Association. He pitched a 10 inning complete game his last time out against the Diamonds in a 6-2 win on July 6.
Tickets for upcoming Stompers home games are available on StompersBaseball.com. Tickets, and fan merchandise are also available inside The Fan Shop located at 234 West Napa Street in downtown Sonoma. If you have any questions, contact the Stompers at firstname.lastname@example.org.