Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
Whether it's June 1st or July 1st, the Stompers know how to win their first home game of the season.
In front of over 1,000 people at Arnold Field, the Sonoma Stompers began their 2015 season with a solid victory over the Pittsburg Diamonds, 6-3, behind a 13-hit attack and a well-pitched game from three newcomers.
Before moving on to begin the 2015 season, the Stompers awarded the family of the star of their 2014 team with the Pacific Association Most Valuable Player trophy, as Jayce Ray's family accepted the award on his behalf. Ray has continued to play well after his promotion to the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association, batting .394, with a .459 on-base percentage while slugging .576 through his first nine games with his new team.
Once the calendar turned to the 2015 season, Ray's replacement in center turned in a performance that fans have gotten used to see from their Stomper center fielders. After Fehlandt Lentini singled to lead off the bottom of the first, he beat a pickoff to second base and came around to score on a Sergio Miranda single to give Sonoma (1-0) the early 1-0 lead.
In the Pittsburg (0-1) second, Joe Lewis reached second after a fielding error by Joel Carranza at first to lead things off. After going to third on a Nash Hutter groundout, Diamonds second baseman Jalen Harris got into a high fastball from Stompers starter Matt Walker and hit it up and out to left field, with the two-run homer giving Pittsburg the lead, 2-1.
But Sonoma tied it up in impressive fashion in the bottom of the inning. In his first professional at-bat with the Stompers, Gayday broke his bat on a fastball from starter Dennis Neal, yet still had enough power on his swing to knock it out of the ballpark and tie the game at 2-2. By HitF/X data, the ball left the broken bat at a speed of 92 MPH.
Sonoma got the lead once more in the fourth on Lentini's second hit of the game, as he beat out a grounder to third that scored Matt Hibbert and made it 3-2, Stompers. Pittsburg answered in the top of the fifth with a Chris DeBiasi RBI groundout to tie the game once more at 3-3.
After a scoreless sixth, Sonoma finally broke it open in the seventh. Lentini again led off with a single and stole second base. When the throw went into center, he took third and forced the infield to come in with Miranda at the plate. To a drawn in infield, Miranda bounced a routine grounder to short that froze Lentini at third. But after the throw was made, Lentini broke for home and dove head first to beat the tag and give Sonoma the go-ahead run.
After a Gered Mochizuki single, Pittsburg reliever Clint Manzo (0-1) tried to beat Joel Carranza inside with a fastball and paid dearly, with the Pacific Association home run king smashing the first pitch he saw deep and out to left field for a two-run shot to finish the scoring.
After Walker's five solid innings, two more new faces for Sonoma provided some stellar relief. Southpaw Paul Hvozdovic (1-0) struck out four of the first six batters he saw and got some great defensive help during his third inning of relief when Matt Hibbert threw out DeBiasi at third after trying to tag up on a fly ball to medium-deep right-center field. That ended the inning and three beautiful shutout innings for Hvozdovic.
In the ninth, it was the side-winding righty Sean Conroy's turn, and after getting Tim Battle to fly out, he too was the beneficiary of some stellar outfield defense. Lewis ripped a line drive to deep left center field and tried to stretch it into a double, but Lentini threw a frozen rope from over 200 feet away on the money to nail Lewis at the bag, receiving a standing ovation from the Stompers faithful in the bleachers behind him.
One Conroy strikeout later and the Stompers were on the right side of the first decision of the 2015 season.
Both Lentini and fellow newcomer Mark Hurley tallied three hits, with Mochizuki and Gayday providing two hits apiece. Miranda drove in two runs, as well.
After an extremely successful Opening Night, the Stompers return to Arnold Field on Tuesday night for game two of their three game series with the Diamonds for a 6:05 first pitch. The first 400 fans will receive a 2015 Stompers magnet schedule courtesy of Mara Kahn Real Estate.
Tickets are available online at StompersBaseball.com or at the gate beginning an hour before first pitch. For more information, visit the Stompers Fan Shop at 234 West Napa Street in downtown Sonoma or call 707-938-7277.