Conroy Dominates En Route to Series Win
Critical Win Maintains Pacifics One-Game Lead with Nine Left
By Vinnie Longo
August 18, 2016
San Rafael, CA -
As the season is coming to a close, storylines are converging for San Rafael. The offense has scuffled for better than two weeks. The Pacifics have been ineffective at hitting with runners in scoring position, but have managed to string together wins with quality at bats and a dash of luck. More often than not, San Rafael has had to work from behind after their opponent would score in the first inning.
As a result, the Pacifics have lived and died by their pitching, which has been inconsistent, dazzling one night and falling victim to a blowout the next. One point of consistency has been Patrick Conroy, who was tabbed by the Pacifics on Thursday night in the rubber match of a critical three-game series against Pittsburg. Conroy had not been credited with a loss in his past seven starts, and following a stellar start by Celson Polanco on Wednesday night, the Pacifics needed Conroy to set the tone early.
Pitching in front of his hometown crowd, Conroy fell into early trouble by loading the bases in the first inning. But as he has been able to do all season, Conroy escaped the jam with three unproductive outs from the heart of the Diamonds order, keeping Pittsburg off the board.
The Pacifics took immediate advantage and staked Conroy to a 2-0 lead in the first, and the big southpaw never looked back.
“Conroy was fantastic tonight and put us in a great position to win,” said Pacifics Manager Matt Kavanaugh. “He’s been very consistent on the mound and has given us a great chance to win every time he goes takes the mound. We needed this win tonight and he stepped up big for us.”
In the midst of a season where Conroy has seemingly needed to navigate his way through jams in every inning, he quieted the Pittsburg bats on Thursday night, allowing just three hits through his first seven innings pitched. The Diamonds put runners on third base with two outs in the fourth and fifth innings thanks to one-out doubles from Tyler Nordgren and Jordan Yallen, but both times Conroy was able to strand the runner at third to keep his shutout alive.
He set the Diamonds down in order four separate times. Twice, Conroy was able to set down eight straight Pittsburg batters, keeping them from building any kind of offensive momentum.
Diamonds starter Rob Ellis was just as good over the middle innings. Ellis had trouble settling in and surrendered three runs over his first two innings, but once he got into his rhythm in the third he wouldn’t give up another run.
Conroy and Ellis battled, throwing up one zero on the scoreboard after another until the seventh, when Ellis gave up a one-out triple to Kyle Adie and followed it up by hitting Johnny Bekakis. With the top of the order coming up, Aaron Miles pulled Ellis in favor of hard-throwing Joe Mello. Mello struck out Zack Pace and pounced off the mound to grab a dribbler from Chase Tucker to end the threat and keep Pittsburg in the game.
After taking their first true momentum in the ballgame, it looked as if the Diamonds would seize advantage off of Conroy in the eighth inning. Conroy got Yallen on a fly-out to center but gave up back to back singles to Jose Garcia and David Kiriakos. Thomas Shull pounded the first pitch he saw into the ground right to Jake Taylor at third, who quickly stepped on the bag at third for one out and fired to first in what appeared would be a clear double play. But the throw short-hopped Mike Taylor and clanked off the edge of his glove, moving Kiriakos to third and extending the inning.
Nick Oddo followed by slapping a grounder to short that took a last-second high hop on Daniel Gonzalez, skipping off of his forearm and then off of his face, allowing Kiriakos to score and keeping the inning alive with the Pacifics lead down to 3-1.
Submariner Garrett Granitz was called in from the bullpen and gave up a ground-ball single through the right side to Tyler Nordgren, but Aaron Miles held Shull at third, leaving the bases loaded for Rich Mejia. Mejia made a living as a “Pacifics-killer” in 2015, but this time came up empty as Granitz induced a groundout to second to minimize the damage.
San Rafael would tack on an insurance run in the eighth when Joe Lewis uncorked a bases-loaded wild pitch and Granitz would pitch a perfect ninth inning to lock down the 4-1 Pacifics victory.
The win allowed San Rafael (39-30, 18-12) to maintain their one-game lead over Sonoma in the second half standings. With nine games remaining, the Pacifics’ magic number is down to nine, meaning that any combination of nine Pacifics wins and Stompers losses will result in the Pacifics winning the second half.
San Rafael heads to Sonoma for three-straight games against the Stompers, where both teams have the opportunity to seize control of their destinies for the final week of the 2016 regular season. First pitch in tomorrow’s ballgame will be at 6:05 PM from People’s Home Equity Park in Sonoma. Live coverage can be found on the radio at pacificsbaseball.com or on Twitter by following @SRPacifics.