Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
One night after the Stompers were on the wrong end of the luck spectrum against the San Rafael Pacifics, Sonoma looked like they had figured things out, leading 1-0 as they went to the top of the ninth inning in yet another pitcher's duel at Albert Park.
Yet on the first pitch of the ninth, Jake Taylor homered against Gregory Paulino to tie the game at 1-1, setting the stage for another stomach punch to Sonoma from the defending champions. Paulino was lifted for Erik Gonsalves, and after a single, an error on a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to load the bases, the Pacifics took the game on a wild pitch that plated Jeremy Williams to give them a 2-1 victory and home field advantage for Monday's championship game.
For eight innings, Paulino was sensational, allowing only four hits and striking out eight while getting out of two jams where there were runners on second and third with two outs. Thanks to some superb defense and top-flight pitch calling from Matt Rubino, the young right-hander looked well on his way to another shutout victory before Taylor hit the first pitch of the ninth out to left on a hanging slider.
Meanwhile, the Sonoma (18-20 2nd half, 44-32 overall) offense didn't get going against the veteran Nick DeBarr, who was matching Paulino zero for zero until the seventh, when both Danny Baptista and Gered Mochizuki singled for the second time in the game. Showing bunt on the first pitch, Mark Hurley pulled back a bunt on the second pitch and lined one through the left side for a base hit, giving Sonoma the lead.
Sonoma has now lost 11 of 16, their worst stretch of baseball of the season. Against San Rafael over that stretch, the Stompers are just 1-7.
Both teams have shown off more pitching and defense than offense the past couple nights, and with Monday's title game looking like another game where pitching and defense will be valued highly, the only game where there might be a lot of offense might be Sunday, as both teams finish up the string at 1 p.m. with Ryusuke Kikusawa starting for Sonoma. The game will be live on TuneIn and the StompersBaseball.com at 12:50.