Maybe it was the presence of former Major League relief ace and father of Sonoma's starting pitcher on the night, Mike Jackson, Sr. Maybe it was the dogs that came out to see the Stompers play during the team's annual "Bark in the Park" promotion with Pets Lifeline of Sonoma Valley. But probably, it was the 30 times R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" came on at Arnold Field on Thursday night.
Regardless of which belief you subscribe to, any or all of them combined to be a part of one of the most complete victories of the season for Sonoma, an 8-0 win over the Pittsburg Diamonds that pulled the Stompers into a tie for second place in the Pacific Association second half standings. Both teams are now four games behind the San Rafael Pacifics with nine games left in the season.
Sonoma (16-14 2nd half, 42-25 overall) did so many things well in this game that it harkened back to the days earlier in the season when all three phases of the game were working. Hitting, fielding and pitching were all at the top of their game on Thursday, with the team doing things well in multiple ways.
The star of the night was Jackson (6-3), who put together his most impressive start of the season. Six weeks after his longest outing of the season against Pittsburg (16-14, 34-34), where he struck out nine hitters in seven innings on July 8, Jackson was masterful against the Diamonds once again, this time throwing seven shutout innings and striking out four.
While he didn't have swing-and-miss stuff like other nights, Jackson's tendencies to pitch to contact played right into what he wanted the Diamonds to do. Pittsburg swung at the pitches Jackson wanted them to swing at and was popping out and grounding out throughout the evening. Twice Jackson induced a double play, with both getting him out of his biggest jams in his first and final innings.
He even got the Diamonds to hit into a couple of shifts, including Mike Taylor grounding into a shift where second baseman Gered Mochizuki was to the left of second base and Scott David grounding into a five-man infield. Overall, the performance was top notch from both a pitching and defense perspective, but the offense came alive, as well.
For instance, the second inning was full of heads up hitting and baserunners doing the right things. With runners at first and second and nobody out, Taylor Eads squared to bunt and took a pitch away for a ball, setting up a bunt defense for Pittsburg. With the wheel play on and the entire left side of the field open, Eads didn't bunt the next pitch and ripped it through the wide open hole on the left side for a base hit, scoring the game's first run.
Two out base hits were crucial in the inning, as well, as Peter Bowles hit a soft liner through the right side to plate a run and Matt Hibbert hit a dribbler in front of the plate that scored the third run of the inning.
While it was more than enough on the night, the Stompers weren't done making things happen on the base paths. Twice more, Yuki Yasuda was put in motion with Danny Baptista at the plate, who came through with solid singles through each hole in the infield to put runners at the corners on two perfectly executed hit-and-runs.
Even the power came out to play, as Connor Jones had his first hit as a Stomper in the sixth with a rocket of a solo home run just inside the foul pole down the right field line. In the seventh, Mark Hurley had the exclamation point on the evening with a three-run homer against James Trebus (5-3) that chased the Diamonds starter from the game.
From there, Dylan Stoops threw two shutout innings to end things for Sonoma, who now travels to Vallejo on Friday night for the first of three games with the Admirals, who just lost a three game home series to the first place Pacifics. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. with the radio broadcast featuring Theo Fightmaster beginning just beforehand on StompersBaseball.com and the TuneIn mobile app.