Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
For the first month of the season, Arnold Field was almost like a safe haven for the Sonoma Stompers. They went undefeated in 10 games to start their home schedule, creating the best homefield advantage in the Pacific Association.
Now, the Stompers have lost their last three games at home, and their loss on Tuesday is the most stinging loss of the year so far. With Sean Conroy, the team's best pitcher, starting the ninth with only 80 pitches thrown, an error and a bloop single led to a nightmare of an inning for the Stompers, as Pittsburg scored six runs to come back and defeat Sonoma, 7-5.
Sonoma (20-10) has now lost four straight games for the first time in 2015 and are 9-9 in their last 18 after starting the season 11-1. Conroy (2-1) was pitching fantastically for eight innings, allowing only one run on a double by Andrew Rubalcava, but an error by Danny Baptista at third base started off what became the game-winning rally for the visitors.
Pittsburg (14-17) batted around in the inning, as after chasing Conroy after the bloop single, Paul Hvozdovic came in to try and finish the game off. However, the lefty couldn't get the left-handed hitting Rubalcava, who used the butcher boy play against a drawn in infield to single home the game's tying run.
After that, the Diamonds scored four more times against Hvozdovic to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 7-3 lead, quieting the crowd and turning what could have been a big night for Conroy and the Stompers into a disaster that had to be cleaned up quickly if Sonoma had any thoughts about halting their losing streak.
They had their shot, too, as Diamonds closer Steve Chapter had a bout of wildness in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and the bases already loaded, Chapter hit Yuki Yasuda with a pitch and then walked T.J Gavlik to make it 7-5 and bring Matt Hibbert to the plate, who leads the team in both wOBA and wRC+, two of the more important advanced metrics to gauge offensive performance.
But it wasn't Chapter that Hibbert would face. He instead took on the hard-throwing Clint Manzo, and Manzo took on the challenge and won it, striking out Hibbert to end the game and Sonoma's two-out, last gasp of a rally.
Outside of Kristian Gayday's 0-for-4 night, all of Sonoma's other eight starters had at least one hit, with Fehlandt Lentini, Joel Carranza and Isaac Wenrich all having two-hit games.
For Conroy, it was a tough loss to take. Over his eight innings of work, he was responsible for four runs, but only two were earned. They are the first earned runs Conroy has allowed in 2015. He allowed six hits and walked one while striking out six. However, he's still amongst the best pitchers in the Pacific Association, carrying a 0.69 ERA and a 1.50 FIP in 26 innings of work.
With San Rafael taking care of Vallejo on Tuesday night, the Stompers lead in the Pacific Association standings has been cut to three, and their magic number is still at 7 for the first half championship.
The Stompers will try again tomorrow with Mike Jackson, Jr. taking the hill to try and stop the Stompers four-game skid, as they will host the Diamonds in game two of a three game series. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m., with the gates at Arnold Field opening at 5 p.m.
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.