After two months of flying high atop the Pacific Association standings, the Sonoma Stompers have hit their first sustained lull of 2015, and they have their rivals from San Rafael to thank for it.
In a week where the Stompers were in a battle for first place with San Rafael during a weeklong home-and-home series, the Stompers were down a game going into the weekend, but had also played their best baseball of the season in front of the home faithful at Arnold Field.
However, Sunday's 15-2 loss wrapped up a dreadful weekend for the Stompers, as the Pacifics handed Sonoma their worst loss of 2015 to complete a sweep and send the Stompers four games back of San Rafael and into third place behind the Pacifics and Pittsburg Diamonds.
San Rafael (18-9 2nd half, 37-28 overall) scored 10 runs against Stomper starter Eric Schwieger (5-5) who only lasted a few batters into the fourth inning. The big lefty saw the game get away from him early thanks to a Danny Gonzalez two-run homer and a Maikel Jova three-run homer in the first inning.
From there, it was a barrage of offense that had not been seen this season since Sonoma's 16-5 loss against the Vallejo Admirals on July 17. San Rafael scored multiple runs in five of the first six innings, as four home runs in total hammered home San Rafael's dominance, including Matt Chavez's league-best 31st home run in the fifth. Jova added another home run in the sixth to cap a 4-for-5 day with five RBIs and three runs scored.
Sonoma got a home run from Gered Mochizuki and an RBI single by Mark Hurley, but their offense has been slowly fading over the past week and a half. After averaging nearly 6.9 runs per game heading into action on August 7, the Stompers have scored only 29 runs in their past nine games and scored five or more runs only twice. They left 55 runners on base this week.
While the team struggles for offense, a bittersweet Sunday saw the departure of two Stompers players, with one continuing his career at a higher level of baseball and the other announcing his retirement.
Isaac Wenrich has been called to the Frontier League and will play for the Florence Freedom in Kentucky, marking the fourth time this season a player from the Stompers has been promoted to a higher league. The Stompers will receive fellow catcher Matt Rubino in return for Wenrich, and will be joining the team for Tuesday's game against Pittsburg.
Meanwhile, TJ Gavlik announced his retirement from professional baseball, and he got a great memory to take with him on his final day as a pro. In the seventh inning, he made his first career appearance as a pitcher, and had one of the most impressive feats of the day when he struck out Matt Chavez with a curve ball. He threw two shutout innings as the first position player to take the mound for Sonoma this season. No replacement has been announced yet in wake of Gavlik's retirement.
After the Monday off day, Sonoma will begin the penultimate week of the season with a three game series against the Pittsburg Diamonds on Tuesday, who are now a game ahead of Sonoma in the second half standings. The Stompers are partnering with the Sonoma Valley Holiday Program to accept toy, stuffed animal and cash donations for the upcoming holiday season, with fans receiving a free general admission ticket in exchange for a donation. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. with the gates 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 email@example.com.