Pacifics Clinch Second Half to Earn Championship Berth
Bullpen Holds Solid in Comeback Victory
By Vinnie Longo
August 25, 2015
Vallejo, CA -
“In a championship run like this, it helps to have guys who have been there before,” Maikel Jova said during batting practice.
2015 is a year built upon the success of prior Pacifics teams. A club that features 11 players returning from the 2014 championship club. A manager who had been a leader on and off the field for San Rafael since 2013. Two franchise players, there since day one, ready to guide the club through another summer of baseball.
But on a cold night in Vallejo, it came down to a man who’d barely been with the team for a month to shut the door and bring the Pacifics home to the second half championship.
Tim Williams, PJ Phillips, and Josh Wong were due up against closer Guadalupe Barrera. The best part of the Admirals order against the reliever that had been dicing apart the Pacific Association since being promoted from the Pecos league in late July. Williams struck out on six pitches. Then Phillips, the best hitter on the team, blasted a 1-0 fastball deep into the gap in right center.
“Off the bat, the ball that Phillips hit looked like a home run,” catcher Ricky Gingras said.
But centerfielder Zack Pace broke immediately back and, as he leapt into the wall, snared Phillips’s drive just below the fence line, one of the most dramatic plays of the season. Then Wong singled to left and was lifted for pinch runner David Wynn, representing the tying run on first base in an 8-7 ballgame.
The next batter was Lydell Moseby, who has shown flashes of clutch for Vallejo over the last month. Moseby was three for four on the night and after fouling off three pitches from Barrera, drew the count full.
With a cutter that just brushed the inside corner, Barrera struck out Moseby looking and, just like that, the Pacifics had punched their ticket to the Pacific Association Championship game.
“What we accomplished tonight has been our goal since the second half began,” said Pacifics Manager Matt Kavanaugh. “This team came back tonight after falling down early and held the lead against a hot team. But tomorrow we need to go right back to work. We’re still trying to win the overall standings and host the championship game.”
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Vallejo took the lead thanks to a 2 RBI single from Gadiel Baez. Glenn Walker followed with a double that scored Baez from first, but on the throw home Walker tried to take third. Upon receiving the cutoff throw, Gingras fired a strike to third to cut down Walker and end the inning. Starter Max Beatty would depart after just two innings of work out of consideration of his upcoming promotion to Wichita of the prestigious American Association. Patrick Conroy, who hadn’t pitched for two weeks, would take over and pitch four strong innings out of the bullpen, allowing just two runs on four hits.
It wouldn’t be until the fifth that San Rafael would threaten offensively. But a four run inning backed by a 2 RBI single from Jova and a 2 run homer from Jake Taylor put the Pacifics on top 5-4. Pace knocked home a run in the sixth and Johnny Bekakis drove home a run in the seventh to make it 7-5. Jeremy Williams scored on a wild pitch to Jordan Brower to give the Pacifics an 8-5 lead, a run that would end up being the deciding tally in the game.
After coming in for Conroy in the seventh and striking out the first two men he faced, Michael Kershner struggled, giving up a solo homer to Tim Williams and walking Phillips and Wong back to back. Nick Hudson would come on and allow only Phillips to score on a single by Moseby, but would retire the seventh and throw a scoreless eighth to hold the lead.
The Pacifics will play in the Pacific Association Championship Game next Monday. The only question that remains is where it will be played. Sonoma holds a 1.5 game lead over the Pacifics with five games remaining. Sonoma and San Rafael will play each other head-to-head in a three-game series this weekend that may very well become the deciding factor. The Pacifics will return to action tomorrow evening for the second game of the three-game road trip in Vallejo as San Rafael will seek their ninth consecutive series win. First pitch will be at 7:05 and live coverage can be found on the radio at pacificsbaseball.com, on Twitter by following @SRPacifics, or by downloading the official Pacifics app on the App Store or on Google Play.