Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
For the first time in about a month, the Stompers looked like the team that offensively dominated the Pacific Association for the first half of the 2015 season. Batter after batter, the Stompers roped line drive after line drive to all fields and kept the scoring train chugging around the bases.
In the 10-2 victory over Pittsburg on Tuesday to open up their final home series of 2015, the Stompers had a five-hit third inning and a seven-hit fourth inning that brought back memories of the juggernaut that was averaging seven runs per game as they ran away with the first half championship.
That team has seen quite the amount of turnover since then, as five of the team's nine players that were in the starting lineup on Opening Night have moved on to leagues above the Pacific Association in independent baseball.
Yet even with that turnover, the flashes of offensive brilliance still manage to shine through for Sonoma (43-28 overall, 17-17 2nd half). Super utility man Yuki Yasuda has been stellar for the team and was a highlight Tuesday with a three-hit night. The heart of the order has all been performing at a high level, as well, with season-long Stompers Mark Hurley, Daniel Baptista and Gered Mochizuki all hitting the ball well.
Mochizuki in particular is putting on a performance that ranks at the top of the league offensively for shortstops, as he has raised his OPS over 70 points since the beginning of August (.741 on August 1, .813 after a 1-for-3 night with a walk yesterday).
The highlight of last night's offensive showcase was the six-run fourth, as 11 batters came to the plate with seven consecutive hitters recording a hit at one point. Of the team's first 12 hits in the first four innings, 11 went to the opposite field, showing the team's fantastic approach against Barrett Phillips (5-7) that gave him an early trip to the showers.
Meanwhile, Sean Conroy (5-2) had some of his best stuff going, allowing only four hits in six innings of shutout baseball while striking out five. He struck out the side in the third inning, and is now in position to either pitch on Sunday for home field advantage in the Pacific Association championship game or perhaps start the game itself next Monday.
That game came to be thanks to a tremendous run by the San Rafael Pacifics in the second half, who clinched that title with an 8-7 victory over Vallejo on Tuesday. In the overall standings, Sonoma currently has a 1 1/2 game lead over San Rafael with five games left, including three in San Rafael beginning on Friday. With overall records determining who hosts the title game, the Stompers' magic number to clinch that distinction is at 4.
Which makes the next two games at Arnold Field all the more critical for the Stompers. Should Sonoma sweep the Diamonds, they would need only one more victory over the Pacifics this weekend in order to secure Arnold Field as the location for the title game.
They'll begin that push tonight with Mike Jackson, Jr. on the hill in the season's penultimate home game, with the first pitch set for 6:05 p.m. Tickets are available online at StompersBaseball.com and can be purchased at the Arnold Field box office beginning one hour before first pitch. For more information, call (707) 938-7277 or email the team at info@StompersBaseball.com.