Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
For a team as lauded as the Sonoma Stompers are for their offensive prowess, it's nice to see that games like Friday night's matchup with the Vallejo Admirals can happen, as well. The Stompers league-leading offense, which averages 6.91 runs per game, saw their weekend opener with the Admirals dominated by their pitching and their defense instead.
It was a shutout performance by the bullpen and standout performances in the outfield by Matt Hibbert and Brennan Metzger that helped Sonoma to a 3-2 win, but it was apropos that the final play of the game was on a heads-up defensive play by Isaac Wenrich, who backed up a wild throw to first on an infield single by Tim Williams and tagged Williams before he got back to first base after Williams made a motion towards second.
It was the second defensive play of the night where Vallejo's (6-13 2nd half, 19-39 overall) right fielder was front and center. In the seventh, he hit a shot to right-center against Santos Saldivar, but Hibbert tracked it down with a tremendous diving catch going parallel to the ground in the defensive highlight of the year for the Stompers.
Plays like that were what pushed the Stompers forward, as Paul Hvozdovic (6-1) had a quality start to keep the Admirals bats at bay and protect a 3-2 lead. That lead came from a two-run homer by Hibbert in the second against Nick Flory (2-6), his fourth of the season.
Hvozdovic went six innings and allowed only eight baserunners (six hits, two walks) while striking out five and allowing two runs. Only one of those was earned.
With the lead in place heading to the seventh, the Stompers made an inspired choice for the first man out of the bullpen. Saldivar was on his throwing day in preparation for a Sunday start, and instead of bullpen work on the side, the Stompers kept him ready just in case they needed him in a tight game. With only a one run lead, he was summoned and threw 10 of his 11 pitches for strikes in a scoreless seventh.
From there, it was all Stompers relief ace Sean Conroy. The sidearming rookie threw two scoreless frames and struck out two to pick up his ninth save.
Hibbert and Yuki Yasuda had two hits each for the Stompers with Taylor Eads adding two walks and a run scored. Brennan Metzger opened the scoring for Sonoma with an RBI single in the bottom of the first to plate Hibbert.
With the win, Sonoma will be tied for first place going into Saturday's action, as the Stompers, San Rafael and Pittsburg entered the action Friday night in a three-way tie for first. The Stompers will host the Admirals for the fifth time this week on Saturday at 5 p.m., with Mike Jackson, Jr. slated to start for Sonoma.
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.