Pacifics Playoff Hopes Alive After Clutch Win
Barnett Goes Seven Strong, Offense Surges Late
By Vinnie Longo
August 26, 2016
Pittsburg, CA -
It was a must-win game on Thursday night in Pittsburg. A loss would have handed Sonoma the second half championship, but a win would prolong the possibility of an incredible comeback for another 24 hours.
The Pacifics were unable to use Patrick Conroy’s strong start the night before to end their losing skid, so they turned to rookie Patrick Barnett, who has nearly matched Conroy in quality over the last month. From the first inning, it was clear that Barnett had the mindset to step up and live up to the hopes in this big game.
Barnett dazzled through his first five innings, working in and out of trouble, and using inning-ending double plays to get out of jams in the first and fifth. He lost command of the zone to start the sixth inning, walking Jordan Yallen and Jose Garcia to start the frame, but induced a 3-6-3 double play out of the speedy Jordan Hinshaw. With San Rafael leading 2-0 and Yallen on third, Barnett worked ahead of Tyler Nordgren 1-2, but Nordgren smacked a clean single to center to get Pittsburg on the board. It was only the third hit that Barnett had suffered on the evening, and he recovered to get Nick Oddo to ground out and end the inning two pitches later.
With the 2-1 lead intact, Barnett (4-5) pitched another scoreless frame in the seventh, striking out Thomas Shull swinging to put an exclamation mark on what was arguably his best start of the season. The lanky right-hander finished having given up only one run on four hits over his seven innings, walking three and striking out four.
The Pacifics got the offense clicking again in the eighth inning when Chase Tucker and Mike Taylor doubled back to back to start the frame. Taylor’s double was a high blast to right-center off the wall, so Tucker had to hold at second base to make sure it wasn’t caught and was held at third. With nobody out, Jake Taylor grounded out back to the mound for an unproductive at bat. Schafer intentionally walked Brent Gillespie to bring up Maikel Jova with the bases loaded and one out. Three pitches later, Jova rolled into what looked like it would be an inning-ending double play to short, but David Kiriakos skipped the relay over to first base and Ian Hagenmiller wasn’t able to pick it, allowing both Tucker and Taylor to score and giving San Rafael a 4-1 cushion.
Submariner Garrett Granitz, who has been a lockdown bullpen arm this season, came on in the eighth inning to face Yallen, and Granitz struggled command out of the gates. He walked Yallen and Garcia back-to-back, setting up Pittsburg for a potential big inning. Granitz put Hinshaw in a two-strike count, but Hinshaw hit a seeing-eye chopper up the middle that eeked into center to drive home Yallen, making it a 4-2 Pacifics lead.
Granitz retired Nordgren on a swinging bunt that moved Garcia to third and second respectively and followed the up by hitting Nick Oddo, which ended Granitz’s night. He gave way to Tyler Herr, who walked in a run but was able to limit the damage to two runs in the inning, keeping the Pacifics lead alive, 4-3.
Then Johnny Bekakis opened up the floodgates opened up in the ninth inning. He hit a chalk ball down the right field line that resulted in a leadoff double, and from there the offense hit its stride. The Pacifics would score six runs on four hits, two walks, and a pair of sacrifice flies in the inning, putting the game out of reach, 10-3.
Mike Taylor added a first-inning home run to his double and finished two for three, giving him fourteen hits and three homers in his first nine games in a Pacifics uniform. Tucker finished with three hits and Jake Taylor drove home three to give him a league-leading 71 RBIs on the season.
“We had our backs against the wall tonight and we responded,” said Pacifics Manager Matt Kavanaugh. “Every at-bat tonight was a team at bat, and this group performed better as a unit than they had over the last week. Now we need to take this momentum into the weekend against Sonoma.”
The Pacifics trail Sonoma by three games in the second half standings, but would hold the tie-breaker if the two teams were to finish the second half in a tie. So if San Rafael were to sweep Sonoma this weekend, they would claim the second-half championship.
The Pacifics will pay host to Sonoma in a three-game series this weekend. It’ll kick off on Friday evening when the Pacifics put on their third annual Dancing with the Pacifics competition, where Barnett, Jake Taylor, and Celson Polanco will compete in a between-innings dancing competition. First pitch will be at 7:05 PM and tickets are still available at pacificsbaseball.com.