Smash and crash
Matt Suleski finished off the weekend almost as strongly as he started it.
After smashing a grand slam to break a tie in Thursday's win, the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox outfielder cracked a triple into the right field corner with the bases loaded on Sunday night, breaking a 1-1 tie and lifting the Gold Sox to a 5-3 win over the Sacramento Scorch.
It was the Gold Sox's 13th straight win and second over the Scorch this season. Yuba-Sutter swept all four Horizon Air Summer Series games of the weekend, taking the first three from the San Diego Stars.
Suleski, who had been struggling at the plate, has recently found a rhythm. He finished the weekend 4-of-10 with eight RBIs, improving his batting average to .258 with 10 RBIs, which is third on the team.
Suleski said a knee surgery last fall slowed him down this spring at the University of Nevada and his slump continued with the Gold Sox.
“(Hitting coach) Chris Terry has been helping me out a lot, and I'm starting to come through now,” Suleski said. “He brought me back to the basics of hitting.”
Suleski's two-hit night came to an end in the fourth inning when he was ejected from the game by home plate umpire Gordon Davidson after a collision with Scorch catcher Zack Zwissig.
With one out, Suleski attempted to score on a fly-out by Alex Zanini, but left fielder Tyler Sabatke gathered Zanini's fly and fired home in plenty of time to gun down Suleski. Suleski plowed over Zwizzig, who dropped the ball, and was immediately called out and ejected, ending the inning.
“I wasn't aware we were playing under collegiate rules, because last year it was American League rules,” Suleski said. “I didn't have any other place to go but right over him.”
After the Stars handed Yuba-Sutter three easy wins to start the weekend, the Scorch challenged the Gold Sox pitching staff.
Matt Collins (3-0) became the second Gold Sox second pitcher to collect three wins, throwing five solid innings.
Michael Hall, Tyler Pearson and Brett Nightingale finished off the game, holding the Scorch to one hit over the final four innings. Nightingale pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, earning his first save.
“(The Scorch) are always a challenge,” Gold Sox manager Brad Peek said. “They are a solid team with a nice mix of young guys and some veterans.”
A.J. Valentine picked up three of the Gold Sox's eight hits, including a hard-hit triple to the wall in straightway center field off losing pitcher John Mitchell. Valentine later scored on a Jonny Norfolk ground-out to put the Gold Sox ahead 1-0 in the second.
“He's starting to stay back better,” Peek said of Valentine's swing. “In the beginning of the season, he had a big stride and his hands were floating. He was committing early instead of keeping his hands back and driving the ball. He had a good night, but he's still not where he needs to be, but it's definitely progress.”
Matt Edgecombe added two hits, including a sixth-inning RBI double to the wall in right field, putting the Gold Sox up 5-2.
Collins retired the first six batters he faced before hitting Steve Rinaudo to begin the fourth inning. He later gave up an RBI single to Chris Rinaudo, which tied the game at 1-all.
He allowed three hits and a run in the fifth, including a Steve Rinaudo RBI double.
“Collins looked good. The fifth inning got away from him a little, but he had no major problems,” Peek said. “We were happy to get him the win.”
Hall retired the first three he faced before struggling with his control in the seventh, walking three and allowing a run before Tyler Pearson came on and shut the Scorch down, fanning four in 11/3 innings.
Notes: The Gold Sox will hit the road for the first time this season on Wednesday, making the first of five trips to series rival Solano in Vacaville. The Gold Sox have struggled at Solano's Travis Credit Union Park, winning just 1 of 7 games there last season. ... The Gold Sox have held opponents to 20 hits over the past five games, 11 of those in Friday's win over the Stars ... Zwissig, a former Sutter High standout, hit a single to center field in the seventh inning.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Justin Miller can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at email@example.com