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Sonoma Stompers split opening weekend at Arnold Field

The new Sonoma Stompers, now entering their fifth year as the Sonoma Valley’s home team in the Pacific Association League, opened their 2019 season with a Saturday loss to the peripatetic Salina Stockade – then bounced back with a win against more familiar foes the Napa Silverados on Sunday.

The Pacific Association season started for some teams the day before but opening day for the Stompers was Saturday, and Mayor Amy Harrington threw out the first pitch, and 11-year-old Alexandria Sebastiani sang the National Anthem. A good-sized and well-behaved crowd enjoyed the food and beverages from Kenwood’s Palooza Gastropub, returning again as field branding sponsors at “Palooza Park,” as well as the game at the newly-upgraded Arnold Park.

The Stockade is a traveling team, based in the heart of the country – Salina, Kansas – that since 2016 has been playing baseball against a wide range of opponents on an irregular schedule in other independent leagues around the country. So far they’ve played in three other leagues – the Pecos League, the American Association, the Can-Am League.

They’ve settled in this season with the Pacific Association, and played their first game on Friday, May 31 (losing to the San Rafael Pacifics, 3-2). They even played another game the same day, June 1, and lost. The unique thing about the Stockade is that they’re essentially without a home field – all their games are away games, which includes playing the Stompers 12 times this season, all of them at Arnold Field.

Opening for the Stompers on the mound was Ethan Gibbons, who warmed up by walking two batters on eight pitches. Fortunately the defense helped out with a double-play to help end the inning without any runs scored.

The next inning, though, Gibbons gave up two home runs, one with a man on, for a 3-0 Stockade lead. The Stompers made up some ground of their own with a run-scoring double in the third and a solo home run in the fourth, from new outfielder Dondrei Hubbard, to make it 3-2.

But the home team could never quite catch up, especially once reliever Brian Browning took over in the fifth. He got only two outs but gave up four runs, two of them earned including an inning-opening home run from Louis Martini.

Browning and later returning pitcher DJ Sharabi finished out the game, but the 9-5 loss was not how manager Zack Pace wanted to open the season. That was turned around the next night, this time with the Sonoma team coming out on top of the Napa Silverados to even their season at 1-1.

The Stompers jumped out ahead to a 6-2 lead early in the game. Once again Hubbard sparked the scoring with a home run to end the Stompers 4-run first inning, though Napa’s Willie Salas got his own four-bagger with a man on in the third.

The Silverados loaded the bases and came away with two runs in the fifth, largely on four walks by Stomper’s pitcher Luke Laurita, and a pair of errors, cutting the lead to 6-4. That prompted the Stompers to get to work, and they scored three more in their half of the sixth to go five runs up, 9-4, the final score.

The Stompers have Monday off, then finish up the week with five straight – two at home and three on the road. With five teams in the league this year, including the always-traveling Stockade, nearly the entire season is comprised of single-game series, with only one two-game series (against Vallejo on the road) and no three-gamers as in previous years.

Tuesday, June 4, prevailing league champion San Rafael Pacifics come to town, followed by the Vallejo Admirals the next night. Game times from here on at Arnold Field are 6:05 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, with Sunday games starting at 1:05 p.m.

For more information about the team, visit stompersbaseball.com.

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