Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
Max Beatty had been unhittable for four innings on Tuesday night. Well, maybe not literally unhittable, but the way the Sonoma Stompers looked at the plate against him, he might as well have been unhittable. Save for two hits from Gered Mochizuki in those innings, Sonoma had no answer for the hard-throwing right-hander for the San Rafael Pacifics.
Yet somehow in the fifth, it all came undone for Beatty. Pitches were left up, the Stompers were attacking him earlier in the count, fastballs were being raked all over the field. Then, he came to the plate.
It had been almost a month since Isaac Wenrich had hit a homer. June 25, to be precise, in a game against the Vallejo Admirals. So there he was, with the bases loaded in a 3-2 game where Sonoma had just taken the lead on a Yuki Yasuda two-run double. Beatty was trying to work quickly to keep Sonoma from getting comfortable in the box.
That did not deter Wenrich. On the first pitch, he got a pitch up and on the outer part of the plate that he went with to left field. Arnold Field's notoriously short porch came calling, and with a failing leap to grab it by San Rafael's Johnny Bekakis, the next instant was bedlam.
In one swing, Sonoma had its first grand slam of the season, put a huge dent in an adversary that had shut the team down previously on multiple occasions, and for Wenrich, a near month-long weight off his back.
It was the major highlight of Sonoma's 10-5 victory over the Pacifics on Tuesday, the first game of three between the two teams at Arnold Field this week. In that fifth inning, seven runs came across while 11 batters strode to the plate, tied for the most runs scored in an inning this year with the lucky seven in the second inning of Sonoma's 11-8 win over Pittsburg on June 26.
Before that inning occurred, the pitching matchup was as good as any in the Pacific Association this year, with Beatty (4-2) and Paul Hvozdovic (5-0) getting into their respective strides by the time the fateful inning came around. San Rafael (1-3 2nd half, 20-22) had opened things up in a big way with Jesse Chavez's league-leading 18th homer of the season in the first and an RBI double by Bekakis in the second.
The double left runners at second and third with nobody out, but Hvozdovic retired the next three batters in order to put the Pacifics early run-scoring aspirations at bay. Sonoma (3-1 2nd half, 29-12) then spent their first two times through the order trying to figure Beatty out before going nuts in the fifth with the big inning.
The Pacifics did have a chance in the seventh inning against Hvozdovic, as a Jesse Chavez single loaded the bases with one in an 8-4 game. Representing the tying run, Maikel Jova chopped a ball back to Hvozdovic, who came home to force out Zack Pace. Wenrich's ensuing throw was wild down to first, which allowed Danny Gonzalez to score and make it 8-5.
However, Chavez followed Gonzalez home by running through a stop sign from manager Matt Kavanaugh, and by the time Chavez put on the breaks, he was caught in a run down and eventually tagged out by TJ Gavlik to end the inning and what would end up being San Rafael's last chance to catch the Stompers.
When Matt Hibbert hit his third home run in his last seven games to score the final run of the game, Sonoma's league-leading offense had scored double-digit runs for the 10th time this season, making it easy pickings for Erik Gonsalves to finish off the Pacifics in the final two innings.
Sonoma got multi-hit nights from Mochizuki (3-for-4, BB, R, RBI), Hibbert (2-for-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI), Wenrich (2-for-4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI) and Gavlik (2-for-4, 2 R). Newcomer Brennan Metzger, a former San Francisco Giants farmhand, knocked home a run with his first hit as a Stomper in the seventh.
Hvozdovic went seven innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He threw 64 of 87 pitches for strikes.
Sonoma will try and make it four out of five to begin the second half on Wednesday night with Mike Jackson, Jr. on the hill. It will be the second night of Sonoma's Women's Week, where female fans get a great discount on tickets in the premium reserved ($12) and grandstand ($10) that includes a glass of wine for each seat purchased.