Searle's pinch single lifts Sox
Monday, July 18, 2005 - Gold Sox manager Brad Peek had no doubt who he wanted at the plate with a runner in scoring position and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday.
Peek called upon Jason Searle to pinch-hit for Junior Contreras, and the senior from Sonoma State delivered, dropping an RBI-single into right field for a dramatic 4-3 comeback win over the Nor-Cal Longhorns for Yuba-Sutter's eighth straight win.
“We had the right guy up when we needed him,” Peek said of Searle, who is a returning player. “I told Junior that I knew he had hit the ball well in his previous at-bat, but that I've been with Searle for two years and I've seen him come through a lot of times.”
Searle's 27th RBI of the season gave the Gold Sox (27-9, 23-6) a three-game Horizon Air Summer Series sweep over the Longhorns (9-11, 9-9), keeping them at least a half game ahead of Solano in the McCullough Division. The Gold Sox will have a chance to gain a lot of ground over Solano when the travel to Vacaville Tuesday and host the Thunderbirds Thursday.
It was Matt Suleski's gutsy double with one out in the ninth that gave Yuba-Sutter a chance.
Suleski, who entered the game on an 0-for-10 slide, jumped on the first pitch from losing pitcher Ben Hicks, knocking it into the right-center gap. Suleski didn't hesitate when rounding first and slid into second just past the throw from Rickey Navarro.
The Longhorns then intentionally walked Billy Sinacori, who had two RBIs, and brought on relief pitcher Nick San Fillippo.
Peek then called upon Searle, who had struck out against San Fillippo Saturday.
Searle got redemption and dropped a 2-2 pitch into shallow right-center as Suleski rounded third and scored easily after Navarro's throw was wild up the first-base line. Navarro fell to the grass and covered his head as center fielder Matt Cozzolino consoled him.
“I was ready to hit, but team-wise, we were able to get into a position where anyone could get a base hit and win the game,” Searle said. “(San Fillippo) threw me a fastball away. I fouled off two inside that I didn't really want to hit. I wanted something away, and I didn't miss this time.”
Searle said he learned from his strikeout against San Fillippo, applying that knowledge to his walk-off RBI single.
“I knew he wanted to go back to his fastball,” Searle said. “The count was in my favor because he doesn't want to walk me, so he has to throw a strike.”
The Longhorns trailed 3-1 heading into the seventh but took advantage of the Gold Sox only error, scoring two unearned runs off Jake McKinley (2-1) for the tie.
McKinley, who entered the seventh in relief of starter Kyle Hill, allowed a lead-off double to T.J. Drotleff, his second of the game. Navarro then hit a ball to third with one out that was bobbled by Doug Thennis, forcing him to throw wildly to first.
The ball bounced into the stands, allowing Drotleff to come home and sending Navarro to second. Cozzolino hit a two-out shallow single to right, knocking in Drotleff, who slid behind the tag from catcher Mike Wilkes.
“(Thennis) has played some good defense and gives 100 percent effort all the time,” Peek said. “He just has to learn as he gets older that he doesn't have to throw 100 mph across the diamond every time.”
All of McKinley's outs in the inning were strikeouts, and he finished with seven in three innings of work. He fanned the Longhorns 1-2-3 in the ninth.
“He's just nasty,” Peek said. “He just had a couple pitches up in the zone.”
Hill was denied his fifth victory in a strong effort, allowing just one hit - a double to Drotleff in the fourth - in six innings of work. He fanned seven and walked Eddie Browne, who went on to score the Longhorns' first run in the first inning.
“Hill pitched outstanding, and it's a shame he didn't get the win,” Peek said. “He pitched well enough for the victory.”
Trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the second, the Gold Sox took their first lead, 2-1, with three hits and a walk. The Gold Sox stole three bases to set up scoring opportunities.
Suleski scored the go-ahead run after Billy Krause singled to right. Billy Sinacori dropped a single to left, bringing home Thennis for a one-run lead. Thennis walked to reach base.
Sinacori recorded his second RBI of the game with an unconventional sacrifice fly in the fourth inning.
With Thennis on third and one out, Sinacori hit a pop fly into foul territory near the Gold Sox dugout. Longhorns first baseman Joe Slater tracked down the ball, catching it on the steps of the dugout and falling inside, allowing Thennis to tag and come home.
Notes: The Novato Knicks clinched the Engelken Division title.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Justin Miller can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.