Stompers Use Early Offense, Clutch Pitching Late To Hold Off Admirals, 8-6

 Matt Hibbert hits his first home run of the season to lead off Tuesday's game against Vallejo.   James Toy III/Sonoma Stompers

Matt Hibbert hits his first home run of the season to lead off Tuesday's game against Vallejo.

James Toy III/Sonoma Stompers

Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations

Using eight runs in the first three innings and an impressive relief performance from their best pitcher in Sean Conroy, the Sonoma Stompers were able to hold off a steady charge from the Vallejo Admirals on Tuesday night, winning the opener of their six game stretch on the road at Wilson Park, 8-6.

There's an argument to be made either way for Conroy. In his two starts this season, he has been stellar. Whether it was his three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts on June 25 or his eight inning performance on July 5, both outings showed that Conroy had the stuff to be amongst the best starters in the Pacific Association.

On the other hand, if the Stompers need someone to end the game, Conroy has been absolutely fantastic. Nine appearances out of the bullpen, no earned runs. Five saves, too, if you're into that. Tie everything up and it's been a year of sub-1.00 ERA baseball from a guy who might have the most unhittable pitch in the Pacific Association with his sidearming slider.

The Stompers turned to Conroy in a time of great need, going to their best pitcher with the game on the line in the eighth. One out, two on, Sonoma (24-11) up two. Conroy's first batter, former Stomper Glenn Walker, bounced a high chop to first base, but as it fell into Daniel Baptista's glove, his quick turn to get the speedy shortstop caused the ball to slip out, and the bases were loaded.

Facing Vallejo's (13-24) best hitter in P.J. Phillips, Conroy won a battle with the veteran and struck him out swinging on a fastball down and in. The next batter was the Admirals' newest addition in Lydell Moseby, a 6'6" 230 lb. behemoth of a first baseman who signed with the team earlier that day. Going through another long at-bat, Conroy froze Moseby with his patented slider to end the inning and Vallejo's greatest threat to a lead they never caught up to.

With three games to fiddle with things that might be worthwhile for the second half that starts on Friday, there were many new faces in new places. Taylor Eads was making his first professional start in right field after signing with the team on Monday.

Even Mike Jackson, Jr. found his way back to the bullpen, the spot where he was a premier reliever for the Stompers in 2014. As dominant as he's been as a starter, he looked just as good in the sixth, striking out two in a perfect frame. Starter Jeff Conley (2-1) was back with the team after some time on the inactive list and looked good in his five innings, with some bad batted ball luck and defensive issues causing his outing to have a few more bumps in the road than it should have.

And in his first game officially as the team's interim manager after taking over for the departed Fehlandt Lentini, Takashi Miyoshi was successful in his debut as the first Japanese-born manager in the history of American professional baseball.

At the plate, Sonoma's offense was as sensational as it has been all season. Matt Hibbert got Sonoma's best opening inning of the year started with a home run to left on the second pitch of the game against Nick Flory (2-3), who didn't find his comfort zone on the hill until it was far too late.

In that first inning, all nine batters came to the plate and the team scored six times, piggybacking their quick starts against Vallejo in their previous two victories at home this past weekend, which include the team's 13-4 first half-clinching win on Sunday. One more run came across in the second on a Danny Baptista RBI single, with the team's final run coming on a solo homer by T.J. Gavlik in the third, his second of the season.

Hibbert went 3-for-4 to lead the Stompers offense and Mark Hurley went 2-for-4 with a double, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and giving him a sixth multi-hit game over that stretch. Outside of Baptista, all seven of the other Stompers starters scored at least once, with Hibbert scoring twice.

Sonoma will play game two of their series with the Vallejo Admirals on Wednesday evening with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. No probable starter for the game has been named. Fans can enjoy the game on the radio at or via the TuneIn app beginning at 6:50 p.m.