Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
When they (literally) write the book on this season, Sunday afternoon will make for a great highlight at the halfway point.
Behind seven spectacular innings from Gregory Paulino and 17 hits from the offense, the Sonoma Stompers clinched the Pacific Association's first half championship on Sunday by soundly defeating the Vallejo Admirals, 13-4 at Arnold Field to finish off a wire-to-wire run to the title.
Beginning with the team's fantastic 11-1 run, the word was out about how good the Stompers could be in 2015. Hot starts by basically everyone in the order and a strong string of pitching performances propped up the Stompers to the point where there were questions about how long the Stompers run would go with so few losses.
Yet, as many of those who are keen to the statistical world knew, regression was coming. No team would be that good for that long, and when it did come, it hit the Stompers relatively strongly. Yet even with that regression, they stayed above that hallowed .500 mark through Sunday, going 12-10 on their way to the championship.
It was a tremendous way to cap off the first half for Sonoma (23-11), as after the final out was made, the Stompers did their normal post-game handshake line before tearing into the champagne to celebrate their title. After a tough week against the San Rafael Pacifics, Sonoma bounced back in a big way by taking three of five from Pittsburg and Vallejo.
Sunday's game was a lot like Saturday's: A fantastic starting pitching performance coupled with an offensive onslaught against the opposing team's starter early on. This time, it was Paulino (3-3), who followed up his four-hit shutout against Vallejo at home on June 24 with another masterful performance, going seven scoreless and allowing only three hits while striking out nine.
While Paulino has had his ups and downs this season, when he's on, there are few pitchers in the league that can match up with his stuff. Today, his pitches were working and he was getting a lot of weak contact, as he only allowed only three singles on groundballs through the infield.
Offensively for Sonoma, the entire lineup got into it, as all nine batters got on base and five players had multi-hit games. Yuki Yasuda, Mark Hurley, Danny Baptista and TJ Gavlik all had three hits with Isaac Wenrich chipping in two hits of his own. Hurley now has a nine-game hit streak that includes four multi-hit games. Yasuda, Baptista and Gavlik each scored twice, as did Matt Hibbert and Andrew Parker.
The team scored twice in the first inning and got four in the fifth to chase Devon Ramirez (1-4), but the big inning came in the seventh, as Sonoma scored six times and sent 11 hitters to the plate to put an exclamation point on Sunday's coronation of a game.
With the win, Sonoma clinches at least a spot in the Pacific Association championship game on August 31, but if the team wins the second half, as well, they will be named outright champions.
Sonoma's celebration will continue this evening, but they'll be back to work on Tuesday when they begin six straight road games at Wilson Park in Vallejo, where they'll face this same Admirals team at 7 p.m. Monday's makeup game between the Stompers and the San Rafael Pacifics at Albert Park has been cancelled.