Crabs highlight three-team weekend for Sox
July 13, 2006 - The next two weeks of the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox season could be extremely important in determining the Horizon Air Summer Series McCullough Division championship.
As of Wednesday, the Gold Sox lead the division, but the Santa Maria Indians are just two games back and the Humboldt Crabs trail by 21/2 games.
Humboldt will try to cut into that lead this weekend by making a rare trip away from Arcata for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday at All Seasons RV Stadium in Marysville. Santa Maria visits July 21, 22 and 23.
Yuba-Sutter opens this weekend with Summer Series rival Solano on Thursday, and finish up by hosting the Delta Toros of the East Bay on Sunday.
“All games are important in the Summer Series, but this is a big weekend for us,” Gold Sox manager Brad Peek said. “I haven't looked at the standings, but I assume we're still holding a slight lead. If we keep winning, we can put some distance between us and Humboldt, and Solano is always a big game.”
The Crabs (20-7) are the oldest collegiate summer league baseball team in the country, celebrating their 62nd year in existence.
Humboldt boasts some local flare with former Yuba City High single-season hit king Richard Cates on the roster. Cates, a freshman infielder/outfielder at Cal State Northridge, is hitting .342 with 21 RBIs, seven doubles and a home run for the Crabs.
“He's probably the best left-handed hitter I've ever had, No.1, and No. 2, he's a hard-nose player that plays hard every game,” said Jim Stassi, Cates' former coach at Yuba City.
Cates hit .255 with eight RBIs, a double and a home run at Northridge this spring. Stassi said Cates' bat speed and ability to adjust at the plate makes him a dangerous hitter.
“He has such quick hands,” Stassi said. “And being a competitor, with that competitiveness in him, allowed him to be successful at the Division 1 level.”
The Crabs enter with a team batting average of .319, lead by infielder Brian Blauser, a Sacramento State graduate, who is hitting en eye-popping .467 with 42 RBIs, 14 doubles, six home runs and two triples.
However, the Gold Sox will send their two most effective starting pitchers to the mound to try and silence Blauser and the Crabs' lineup - Given Kutz and Ryan Zaft.
Kutz (5-0, 0.71 ERA) will climb the mound on Friday, and Zaft (4-1, 0.48 ERA) will take the hill on Saturday.
Kutz has been rolling to become the number-one hurler. The University of Portland junior didn't pitch this spring after recovering from shoulder surgery but has been blowing away the competition ever since.
“His coaches spoke highly of him and said he's not overpowering but he can flat out pitch, and that's what we've seen,” Peek said. “We're giving him an extra day of rest, so he'll be fresh.”
Tyler Pearson will open the weekend on Thursday against the Thunderbirds.
Peek doesn't expect ill feelings from last week's game in Vacaville to carry over. In that game, B.J. Collom was hit by a pitch twice, once after time had been called. The umpire issued a warning to both teams, but Collom was hit again on the ensuing pitch. The umpire did nothing, which got pitching coach Jack Johnson fired up and ultimately ejected from the game.
“I wasn't too happy, but we'll get on the field and do our thing,” Peek said.
Matt Collins (1-0, 1.00 ERA) is penciled in for the start on Sunday. However, he could be scratched if a minor arm injury doesn't improve.
Peek said he's been pleased with his stellar pitching staff that boasts a 1.72 ERA, but he was more impressed with his defense, which has a .975 fielding percentage.
“Above everything, we've been really surprised with our defense,” Peek said. “And I really like the balance of our lineup with speed and power from the top to the bottom.”
Doug Thennis, a recent Sacramento City sophomore who is transferring to Texas Tech, leads the attack with a .371 average, 20 RBIs, 10 doubles and two home runs. Thennis has fully recovered from a hamstring injury, and Peek has been letting him loose on the base paths. He is 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.
“Everyone loves the game, but he's one of those guys that wants to play seven days a week. He gets out there early, and the proof is in the pudding,” Peek said. “He has a lot of given talent, works awful hard, and he understands the game. He has power-hitting abilities, but he'll take a single up the middle to get an RBI.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Justin Miller can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at email@example.com