Tucker, Pacifics End Season on High Note
Walkoff Homer Sends Pacifics into Offseason
By Vinnie Longo
August 28, 2016
San Rafael, CA -
On the final day of the regular season, the top two teams in the league were tied at 2 in the bottom of the ninth inning. As has happened countless times over the last two seasons between the Pacifics and Stompers, the drama built in a nail biter game until the last possible second.
With veteran right-fielder and career clutch hitter Maikel Jova leading off, it seemed almost destined that the Cuban slugger would be the start of something special in the inning. But Jova popped up to second for the first out of the inning to bring up Chase Tucker. When Tucker quickly fell behind Sonoma’s crafty left-hander Even Neiser 0-2, extra innings were starting to look like a possibility on the final day of the regular season.
Then Neiser hung a changeup on the inner half and Tucker clubbed it through the inward-gusting wind. The bench leapt to its feet. Tucker held the bat as he took his first few steps gingerly down the line. Did it have enough? As left fielder Randy Keen drifted back to the wall, his run slowed to a trot and he looked up. And just like that the season was over as Tucker’s walkoff homer sailed over the storage shed and into Pacifics history.
For a few incredible moments, a regular bystander never would’ve guessed the trials and tribulations this Pacifics team faced over the past three weeks. The hard stretch run, the five game losing streak, and watching Sonoma claim the 2016 championship on the Pacifics’ home field. Tucker tossed his helmet as he rounded first base and was swallowed by his teammates as they encircled home plate.
Tucker’s fourth homer of the year sent the Pacifics home happy as they won the last game of the season.
“I took the first two pitches and fell behind and was kicking myself,” said Tucker. “Then he hung the changeup and I was honestly just hoping I didn’t roll over a grounder to short. I put the right swing on it and am happy we got to end the season on a good note.”
The shot marked the second consecutive season where the Pacifics have ended the year on a walkoff hit. 2016 didn’t end in a championship, but the team played meaningful games in the championship run until the final two contests of the season, more than most teams get to do over the course of a regular season.
Sunday was one of the most bittersweet games in Pacifics history, as it marked the final professional games for Zack Pace, Daniel Gonzalez, Michael Kershner, and Johnny Bekakis, all of whom were walked off of the field with adoration from teammates and fans alike.
Jake Taylor drove home Gonzalez in the first inning and Bekakis scored Mark Lindsay from second in the seventh with a single to supply the offense for San Rafael prior to Tucker’s blast.
Sonoma scored in the first inning off of former Redwood High School standout pitcher Harry Shapiro, who allowed only one hit and one run over his two innings pitched while striking out two. Shapiro was followed by Patrick Conroy, who delivered 3.1 strong innings in his final outing of the season, allowing only one run on two bloop hits. Julian Esquibel pitched a perfect eighth, Kyle Adie struck out the only batter he faced, and then Tyler Herr struck out two more to send the Pacifics to the bottom of the ninth.
The Pacifics finished the season with a 41-37 record, and 20-19 in the second half, in second place in both the second half and overall standings. In their five seasons, the Pacifics have won three championships and have never finished lower than second in the final standings. With Sunday’s victory, the Pacifics have now won 225 games in five seasons.
It may have not been reflected in the final standings, but when Chase Tucker leapt into the air to slam his feet on home plate after hitting his first career walkoff homer, the 2016 San Rafael Pacifics felt like champions.