With every game picking up more tension than the previous as the season winds down, there was no game more tense so far in 2015 than Thursday's game for both Sonoma and San Rafael. Both teams entered the game at 14-9, tied for first place in the second half standings of the Pacific Association. Only one would leave with a one game advantage when the two teams began their weekend series in Sonoma on Friday.
Even with a 6-0 deficit to overcome after three innings, the Stompers fought hard to try and have that advantage for the second half of their weeklong battle with the Pacifics, but even with a couple of big rallies late, Sonoma couldn't get over the hump, falling 8-6 and once again falling a game behind San Rafael in the second half standings.
Sonoma (14-10 2nd half, 40-21 overall) battled back from 6-0, 7-2 and 8-3 deficits, with a three run rally in the seventh inning proving to be their strongest move forward. Isaac Wenrich hit a shot to center field with two runners on that took a huge bounce off the grass just shy of the dirt on Albert Park's softball field and it bounded over the head of Zack Pace, allowing Wenrich to reach on a two-run triple.
Then Mark Hurley doubled down the left field line to plate Wenrich and make it an 8-6 game. After two scoreless innings of relief by Jon Rand, Jr., Sonoma's last gasp in the ninth brought the most controversy of the entire game. After Wenrich singled on a liner just out of the reach of a diving Johnny Bekakis in right field, Hurley came up and hit a similar shot towards Bekakis.
Bekakis slid forward and made the play rolling over on his side, but the out call was not made until several seconds later when Bekakis raised his glove with his back to the field, making the Stompers feel that he did not make a clean catch. It did not matter as the out call had been made already, even with several players and manager Takashi Miyoshi arguing against the call.
The tough finish brought a dissatisfying end to the series in San Rafael, where the Stompers lost two of three in very tough fashion. While it was runners left aboard on Tuesday that sunk the Stompers, it was instead the first time in a week's worth of baseball that the suddenly dominant Stompers pitching staff had issues.
After five consecutive games allowing three or less runs, Paul Hvozdovic (6-2) gave up four in the first, with three runs coming on a Jake Taylor home run with two outs, his sixth of the season. All in all, the six runs given up by Hvozdovic was the fourth time in his last five starts where he gave up at least four runs.
In fact, the eight runs given up by Hvozdovic and Matt Walker were as many in those five innings as the team had given up in that five game stretch. The Stompers did get good games at the plate from Wenrich (3-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI), Hurley (2-for-5, 2B, RBI) and Matt Hibbert (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI), but their 11 hits in all weren't enough to help them back from that initial six-run deficit.
Now with their penultimate trip in 2015 to Albert Park in the rearview mirror, Sonoma returns home for a six game homestand that will begin with three games against the Pacifics. The series opener will take place tonight on a KRAVE Friday, where the local jerky makers will be at the park with their delicious varieties of jerky for fans to enjoy. Fans 21 and older can enjoy pairings with some of their favorite adult beverages in the Lagunitas Beer Garden.
Tickets begin at just $4 and can be purchased online at StompersBaseball.com or at the Stompers Fan Shop, located at 234 W. Napa St. in beautiful downtown Sonoma. Tickets can also be purchased at the gates at Arnold Field before any home game. For more information, call the Stompers at (707) 938-7277 or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.