Gold Sox say Aloha to Knights
Saturday, June 18, 2005 - A birthday tribute was given to late-Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox owner Don McCullough before the start of the sixth inning Saturday at All Seasons RV Stadium.
All 1,572 fans in attendance rose to their feet and sang “Happy Birthday” to McCullough, who would have been 70.
The tribute gave Gold Sox pitcher Wes Porter goose bumps. He went on to retire the next nine batters before giving up a single in the ninth.
With Porter returning to form and baffling the Knights, the Gold Sox scored five runs over two innings for a 9-5 victory over the Aloha Knights of Gresham, Ore.
“After I came out and they mentioned Don, I just got goose bumps,” Porter said. “I just wanted to do it for (Don) and this community. I think it just gave the guys a boost.”
The Gold Sox took two of three from the defending National Baseball Congress champion Knights in the Horizon Air Summer Series set. Yuba-Sutter has won eight of their last 10 games.
Porter, who had yet to show the dominance he displayed with the Gold Sox last season, used a nasty breaking pitch and consistent fast ball after relieving starter Kyle Hill in the fifth inning.
Porter (1-1) retired two batters in the fifth, stranding runners on second and third, and then went on to set down the Knights in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
“I'm just feeling like myself,” said Porter, who pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit while fanning four and walking a batter. “People look at the stats, but I don't really care about them. I'm just trying to work on my off-speed stuff and focus on what is going to make me better at San Jose State next year.”
Gold Sox manager Brad Peek was certainly happy to see Porter dominate.
“That's the Wes Porter we saw all last year,” Peek said. “He pitched with confidence, mixed up his pitches and surprised them with the fast ball when they were thinking curve. That's the kind of stuff he is capable of.”
A.J. Valentine gave the Gold Sox life with a three-run home run in the fifth inning, cutting the Knights lead to 5-4. The Gold Sox outscored the Knights 8-1 over the final four innings.
Valentine's third blast of the season came off starter Zach Bird (1-1) and was lifted over the right field wall just above the Calpine sign. Valentine, who has 15 RBIs and a team-leading .383 batting average, knew the ball was gone from the moment he hit it as he trotted down the first base line and flicked his bat toward the dugout. The home run plated Zach Weidenaar, who doubled to the wall in right, and Jesse Rodgers.
“It was an inside fast ball, belt high, and I just swung as hard as I could and knew it was gone,” said Valentine, who finished 3-for-4.
Valentine and Peek were each sure the home run spurred the Gold Sox.
“(Valentine) was just the right guy, in the right spot and got the right pitch,” Peek said. “He swung and the result was huge. We are right back in the game.”
One inning later, the Gold Sox touched reliever Kyle Atchley for three runs in the seventh inning for a 7-5 advantage.
Atchley hit Cody Prado with the bases loaded to bring home Rodgers for the tying run, 5-5. Junior Contreras' fielder's choice to short stop allowed Valentine to score for the Gold Sox' first lead. Johnny Norfolk picked up his second RBI with a single to right that brought home Jason Searle, who finished 3-for-5.
Knights manager Dale Stebbins left Atchley in for the eighth, and the reliever gave up a two-run double to Prado for his second and third RBIs of the game, giving the Gold Sox the 9-5 advantage. The double scored Rodgers, who walked for the fourth time, and Searle.
“Prado's hit was big and gave us breathing room late,” Peek said.
Norfolk's first RBI came in the fourth with a sacrifice-fly that plated Searle, and the Gold Sox trailed 4-1.
The Knights took a 3-0 lead in the second inning after scoring two runs off Hill.