This time Gold Sox have lead
It's something the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox haven't been able to do this weekend, until Sunday.
After three consecutive comeback victories, the Gold Sox scored early and used a five-run fifth inning to leave no doubt, sweeping the Santa Maria Indians in a three-game Horizon Air Summer Series set with a 7-1 victory.
A.J. Valentine hit a majestic two-run home run to cap the five-run fifth, and Doug Thennis continued his tear this summer, jacking his team-leading fourth home run in the first inning, while driving in three runs, including two in the fifth.
The Gold Sox (33-7, 28-6) eliminated the Indians (32-15, 26-14) from contention for the McCullough Division title. Santa Maria ended Summer Series play and will now head to Wichita, Kansas to take part in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
“It's a good win because they came in here hot,” Gold Sox manager Brad Peek said. “They're going to Wichita and it's nice to say we swept a team that's going to Wichita.”
The Gold Sox used three pitchers to silence the Indians' bats, and Michael Hall improved to 4-0 after throwing three innings in relief of starter Kody Keroher.
Hall allowed two hits and gave up the Indians' only run. He struggled with his control at times and walked four batters, while striking out two.
Keroher, who was making his first start of the season after eight last summer, gained some much-needed confidence and showed an arm injury he sustained earlier this summer is progressing nicely.
Keroher, a native of Grass Valley who attends the University of Nevada, Reno, pitched the opening three innings, allowing three hits and no runs while walking a batter and hitting one.
“I was really pleased with Kody,” Peek said. “Early in the summer had a little shoulder tenderness, and with Kody, the key thing that we wanted to do this summer is build his confidence for next year at Nevada.”
Matt Collins, who has also battled with arm tenderness this summer, finished up the game in relief of Hall, allowing three hits, striking out four and walking two to earn his first save.
He got out a big jam in the seventh inning that could have allowed Santa Maria to jump back in the game. With two outs, Collins allowed back-to-back singles and a
walk to load the bases. He then took Corey Morales to a 3 ball, 2 strike count before inducing a ground out, ending the inning and the threat.
“That was big because the nature of the game could have changed real quick,” Peek said. “It was a huge thing for him and the team. It was a pressure situation and he was able to get out of it.”
Collins settled in the final two frames, allowing just one more hit and a walk, while striking out four of the final eight hitters he faced.
The Gold Sox sent eight hitters to the plate in the huge fifth, nailing relief pitchers Lee Collins for four runs and five hits and Ryan McGee for a run and one hit.
Alex Zanini led off the inning with a single and Joél Torres smashed his second hit of the game down the line in right, setting the table for Thennis after Jonny Norfolk popped out for the first out.
Thennis hit a pitch from Collins back up the middle, scoring Zanini and Torres.
“It all started because we got runners in scoring position early, on first and second with no outs,” Thennis said. “That makes a hitter's job a whole lot easier, and we were able to be productive, mainly.”
Brett Nightingale's second hit and an error allowed Thennis to score, and Valentine then jumped all over McGee, who had just entered the game, for his home run that sailed high into the night and over the right-field netting, landing on to 14th Street.
“They use the tuning fork expression, it just sounded right,” said Valentine, who broke a 1-for-19 hitting drought on Saturday with a double. “Right off the bat, everything just felt like it was supposed to happen.”
Norfolk drove in his 12th run of the season in the second, bringing home Torres from third after he hit a one-out triple to the wall in the right-center gap.
Thennis put the Gold Sox ahead 1-0 in the first with his home run into the right-field netting above the Comcast sign.
Notes: Jonathan Dees continued to struggle at the plate, going 0-for-4, extended his drought to 0-for-his-last-16. ... Norfolk extended his hitting streak to seven games. ... Thennis' 2-for-4 night gives him a team-leading 15 multi-hit games. ... Nightingale will be the starter for Tuesday's road game at Solano in Vacaville.