Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
Before the Sonoma Stompers franchise came to be, pitcher Erik Gonsalves spent the summer of 2013 pitching for the Vallejo Admirals. After a fine season with the team, the Stompers signed him to be at the front of their starting rotation during their inaugural season. He obliged the team with 106 innings of solid work in 2014, the second most in the Pacific Assocation.
Now in his third year in the league, Gonsalves has seen his role change once more, as he's being asked to come out of the bullpen to begin 2015 with Sonoma. If Friday night's appearance is any indication, Gonsalves might be returning to the starting rotation much sooner than later.
Thanks to Gonsalves' phenomenal 3 1/3 innings of relief and a costly Vallejo error from left fielder Brad Young, the Stompers made a four-run fourth inning hold up in an 8-3 victory over the Admirals, keeping Sonoma undefeated on the young season.
Gonsalves (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings of relief during Sonoma's first home series earlier this week, but got called upon in the fifth inning in a 6-3 ballgame. Vallejo had loaded the bases with two outs thanks to two Sonoma errors in the inning, and the red hot Michael Cerda came to the plate. Cerda was 5-for-14 with a double and two homers in his first three games coming in and already had two hits on the evening, including a two-run double.
Working the Vallejo (3-1) infielder on the inside part of the plate, Gonsalves got Cerda to pop out meekly to shortstop to end the inning, but his mastery did not stop there. Scattering only two walks, Gonsalves didn't allow a hit and struck out five, stopping any notion of a comeback by the Admirals during their Opening Night.
In fact, it was Sonoma (4-0) who had to make the comeback, as after the Cerda double, Sonoma and Vallejo traded runs back and forth to make it a 3-3 ballgame. The costly error by Young came in the fourth on a bases loaded RBI single by Fehlandt Lentini. Young misplayed the ball that landed in front of him, and as it rolled to the wall, all three runners came in to score, giving Sonoma the 6-3 lead.
Joel Carranza reached four times for the Stompers, including two hits. The Stompers first baseman only had one hit in eight at bats coming into Friday's action. In his first game at Vallejo since joining the Stompers, Isaac Wenrich also notched two hits against his former team. Lentini scored three times and stole third on a throw back to the pitcher in the first, getting himself into position to be brought home on Carranza's first hit of the game.
Although it's only four games into the season, the Stompers are way out in front of the other three teams in the Pacific Association in all major hitting categories. Their .327 team batting average is 77 points higher than second-place Vallejo's, and their .430 team on-base percentage is 97 points higher. 41.5% of the league's total walks have been tallied by Sonoma hitters.
While he didn't qualify for the victory, starter Jeff Conley looked good after a rough first inning. In all, he struck out six in 4 2/3 innings and allowed only four hits and three walks. Of the three runs he gave up, two were earned. Paul Hvozdvoic pitched a scoreless ninth inning, as well. This season, Stompers relievers have given up only one run in 29 2/3 innings with a 19/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Game two of the three-game weekend series takes place Saturday afternoon at Wilson Park in Vallejo with a change in gametime. The 5 p.m. start time has been moved up to 4 p.m., with the radio broadcast beginning at 3:50 on StompersBaseball.com and via the TuneIn radio app.