Longhorns avoid the sweep
A night after winning the McCullough Division of the Horizon Air Summer Series, the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox came out flat Sunday, falling behind early, and dropping the game to the NorCal Longhorns despite a late rally.
The Gold Sox (36-9, 31-8) fell into a 5-0 hole after three innings and slowly chipped away, pulling within two in the ninth, but could not erase the early deficit in an 8-6 loss.
Longhorns starting pitcher Ryan Belli didn't make things any easier for the Gold Sox, pitching seven strong innings, and Brad Bauer was 3-for-6 with four RBIs, giving NorCal a chance to steal a game in the four-game Summer Series set.
Belli retired the first nine batters he faced, taking a perfect game into the fourth inning before Joél Torres broke through with an infield single, later scoring on a Doug Thennis sacrifice fly.
Belli scattered five hits, allowed four runs - none earned - and struck out 10 while walking one.
“(Belli) looked pretty average, but he had a sneaky fastball, was able to
get ahead and then used his off-speed pitch to keep us off-balance,” said Gold Sox hitting coach Chris Terry, who, along with pitching coach Jack Johnson, took on co-manager duties with Brad Peek taking the night off to see how things worked on the other side of the fence.
Gold Sox starter Kody Keroher didn't have the same effectiveness on the mound in his second start.
Keroher allowed six hits and five runs - four earned - in three innings. He struck out two, hit one and didn't walk a batter.
But it wasn't just Keroher who struggled for the Gold Sox's usually outstanding pitching staff.
Matt Collins allowed six hits and three earned runs in four innings of relief, striking out three and walking three. Josh Roberts allowed two hits in 2/3 of an inning, and Alberto Rolon threw 11/3 strong innings, striking out two.
“We never got ahead (in the count) today,” Terry said. “We struggled to get ahead, and we weren't getting the ball down. They are a good contact-hitting team, and when you get in a hole and give them hitting counts, they're going to put contact on the ball.”
Of the Longhorns 14 hits, six were infield singles.
Torres continued to roll at the plate for the Gold Sox, giving the club life after bashing a two-out three-run double - his second hit - into left field in the fifth, pulling the team within two, 6-4.
A.J. Valentine, who was the only other player to collect two hits, blasted a towering solo home run in the eighth inning against reliever Mikael Ryder, cutting the Longhorns' lead to 8-5. Valentine's shot, his fourth of the year, was a no-doubter off the bat, sailing high into the night sky, over the netting in the right-center gap and onto 14th Street.
The Gold Sox hit consecutive singles to lead off the ninth inning, and pinch-hitter Matt Suleski drove in a run after grounding out to whittle the Longhorns' lead to two, 8-6.
With a runner on third and two outs, Torres appeared to be hit by a pitch against reliever Scott Reed, who earned the save. However, plate umpire Bill Swanson said Torres leaned into the pitch, keeping him at the plate. Torres then grounded out to Bauer at third on a very close play to end the game.