Stompers ready for championship series to begin in Sonoma Friday
The final game of the Pacific Association's regular season was played Monday night at Arnold Field, and the Sonoma Stompers cut loose with 19 runs to reinforce their claim to a first-place finish in the five-team independent baseball league.
All that's left is the playoffs – capped by the three-game championship series, which begins Friday night, Aug. 30, in Sonoma. Their opponent will once again be the San Rafael Pacifics, who defeated the Napa Silverados on Thursday night, Aug. 29, by a score of 7-6.
Manager Zack Pace denied that his team was piling on when it ran up two 6-run innings, including the bottom of the eighth, to claim the 19-6 victory over the Vallejo Admirals in the Monday night season finale.
'We were just playing the game as usual – baseball's so weird, there's no givens in a game, it just happened,' said the second-year manager. The team's 45-19 season record, a .703 winning percentage, followed last year's Stompers setting the league record for games won in their 57-23 season. That year the league had six teams, but Pittsburg and Martinez dropped out, to be replaced only by the Salina Stockade.
Monday's game saw 252 fans show up on the 90-degree summer evening at Palooza Park, where Ethan Gibbons (3-4) faced off against Vallejo's Harold Myles (1-1). Gibbons faltered in the first, giving up a walk and a double to set up outfielder Vladimir Gomez to single in both runs for the 2-0 lead before the Stompers even had a chance to take a swing.
They went down in order in the first, but saved their fire for the second inning when they pressured Myles into a single, a walk, a hit batter and another walk to move across the first run. Five more runs followed in a small-ball flurry – a variety of singles, walks and sacrifice flies to build the score to 6-2.
Three more Stompers runs followed in the third and four in the fifth, while Gibbons kept the Admirals at bay. Konnor Arnold came in to replace him in the fifth, and while he was tagged for a pair of home runs, by Chevy Clarke and Tillman Pugh, it was Arnold who eventually got the win.
By the eighth inning Vallejo had eroded the Sonoma lead to 13-6, but the Stompers six-run bottom of the inning underscored their dominance in the game. Rayson Romero led off with a home run, followed by a grand slam from Miles Williams – he ends the regular season with 15. The third Admirals pitcher, Jacob Wark, walked in another run before the inning finally ended, as right fielder Gomez moved to the mound to get Jacob Barfield swinging for the third out, with the bases still loaded.
The season-ending standings found the Admirals in third place facing the fourth-place Napa Silverados in the first playoff game, held on Wednesday, Aug. 28. It took 12 innings for the Silverados to get the 6-5 win, and they moved on to the second round in the playoffs. On Thursday night, the winner will meet the Pacifics in San Rafael (results too late for press time).
It's the victor of that game who will come to Sonoma on Friday for the first championship game, against top-seeded Stompers. Pace said his starting pitcher will be Nick Barnese, followed by Vijay Patel starting game two of the best-of-three series. Both pitchers sport identical 7-1 records, best in the league.
'For Friday's game we will have a few ceremonial first pitches, our famous mascot race with Rawhide and more,' said team general manager Brett Creamer. He also promised two special food vendors, to join Palooza Gastropub, including Tacos Jalisco food truck and Kona Ice of Napa.
First pitch is 6:05 p.m. Saturday's game will be played at the home field of the playoff winner, either Napa or San Rafael, and game three – if necessary – will be back in Sonoma. Start time will also be 6:05, a change from the usual afternoon start for Sunday games.
For team details and ticket information, visit stompersbaseball.com.