When the Stompers won their series with the Pittsburg Diamonds earlier this week thanks to two phenomenal starts from Gregory Paulino and Mike Jackson, Jr., it seemed as if the Stompers identity had indeed shifted from an offensively charged team to a team focused on pitching and defense.
Much of that had to do with the departures of the heart of their lineup over the past month, as Joel Carranza, Isaac Wenrich and Brennan Metzger all moved on to upper-division leagues in independent baseball. Yet the Stompers starters seemed to have a trio in place to help lead them down the stretch, with Santos Saldivar looking like an ace and set to help Sonoma bounce back from a tough loss on Friday.
Things went well for nearly six innings until a couple mishaps turned the tides for Vallejo, and once the Admirals saw their opening, they kept pouring it on until the Stompers couldn't come back any more. After taking two of three from the Diamonds and looking like they could sneak into the 2nd half race with San Rafael, the Stompers are on the brink of being swept after a 9-4 loss on Saturday.
In their second matchup with Kenneth McDowall, the Stompers were able to figure some things out against the former teammate of Bryce Harper at Southern Nevada. It began with Gered Mochizuki who doubled off McDowall and came around to score on a bloop single by Peter Bowles. In his next at-bat, the Maui native hit his first home run of the year on the road, an opposite field shot in the fourth that gave Sonoma a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Saldivar (2-2) was cruising along, running into trouble in the fourth and fifth but finding his way out of jams to keep Vallejo (10-22 2nd half, 23-48 overall) off the scoreboard. The pivotal sixth inning, however, was the beginning of Vallejo's breakthrough.
With one out and a runner at first, Glenn Walker took off for second and Saldivar pitched out. Sonoma (17-15 2nd half, 42-27 overall) catcher Matt Rubino made a perfect throw to second base but as Mochizuki laid down the tag, the ball slipped out of his glove, causing Walker to be safe. Later in the inning with Joshua Wong at the plate, Saldivar got Wong swinging on a high fastball for a strikeout, but Wong's bat clipped Rubino's glove on the swing, allowing Wong to reach on catcher's interference.
That's where Vallejo found its offense for the first time. Instead of being out of the inning, Saldivar needed to get two more outs, and Vallejo had way too many opportunities not to come through. Lydell Moseby singled home Walker for the first run and Tyler Norgren doubled home Wong to tie it at 2-2.
Yet it was Jordan Berry, he of the .130 batting average coming in to the game, who had the game's biggest hit to that point. He smashed a 2-run single just out of the reach of Yuki Yasuda at third base to give Vallejo a 4-2 lead. The inning fell apart, but the Stompers weren't done.
In the seventh, Sonoma got two runs thanks to the second home run of the season from Connor Jones and a heads up running play by Rubino taking third with nobody covering after a fielder's choice. Yuki Yasuda's two-out chopper off the plate brought Rubino home with the tying run.
The bottom half of the inning was when Vallejo pulled away for good against Erik Gonsalves (5-3). The Admirals forced Gonsalves to throw an unbelievable 55 pitches in the inning and wore down the former Admiral, sending 10 batters to the plate and using five hits and a walk in the inning to bring home four runs.
By the time the final run came across, Sonoma was well on its way to the eighth loss in 11 games and their first series loss on the road that didn't come at the hands of the San Rafael Pacifics. They will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m. when they send Gregory Paulino to the hill five days after his six-hitter against the Diamonds at Arnold Field.