| August 4, 2021
LINCOLN, CA – It was a wild, back-and-forth game between the Healdsburg Prune Packers and the San Luis Obispo Blues on Wednesday afternoon, that ultimately ended in favor of the fifth-seeded Blues. They smashed four homers en route to a 12-7 victory in their second game of the day.
Coming off of a 11-2 victory over the Conejo Oaks just hours before, the Blues bats picked up right where they left off. Catcher AJ Esperanza (Cuesta College) started the homer parade, launching a 3-1 pitch from Tyler Staisiowski (Santa Rosa Junior College) into the trees in right field to give the Blues the early 1-0 lead.
“It’s just about energy, and the guys you have in the dugout,” said designated hitter Vince Martinez (Stanford). “There wasn’t a single point in the game where we didn’t have energy, either our last game or this game. Just continue to want to compete. That was the theme of the day, everyone just kept saying ‘compete’ and that’s what we did.”
San Luis Obispo starter Evan Larson (Concordia University) cruised through the first two innings, working around two hits on 23 pitches. He was even more dominant in the third, striking out the first two batters and getting the third to ground out to first.
Carrying the momentum from Larson, the Blues got a rally going in the top of the fourth. With runners on first and second, Martinez lined a single into right-center field, scoring Mason Grotto (Fresno State) and moving Esperanza to third. With Thomas Trinca (George Mason) looking to break it open, Healdsburg’s Ryan Targac (Texas A&M) made a slick glove flip to second that Ian McMillian (Houston) fired to first for an inning ending double-play.
Defense led to offense for the Prune Packers, as they responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on second and third, third baseman Braydon Runion (Texas Tech) grounded a base hit up the middle that scored both runners, tying this one up at two runs apiece.
The Prune Packers kept it going in the fifth, knocking out Larson and scoring three runs to take a 5-2 lead. Targac, Torin Montgomery (Missouri) and Runion all contributed RBI singles, but reliever Ryan Ward (UT San Antonio) struck out Jesse Lopez (Long Beach State) to end the threat.
Healdsburg’s Derek Bridges (Texas Tech) pitched well in relief of Stasiowski, working 1.2 innings, but walked two to start the sixth and was pulled for Finnegan Wall (UC Irvine). Martinez greeted him with a deep drive to right that bounced over the wall for an RBI double, and Trinca knocked in Esperanza with a grounder to shortstop, making it 5-4.
After Ward tossed a scoreless bottom of the sixth, the Blues offense got back to work. With the bases loaded and one out, TJ Clarkson hit a hard grounder to first that Montgomery bobbled, allowing Ryan Cermak (Illinois State) to tie the game at five.
Montgomery was able to get Clarkson at first, bringing up the red-hot Martinez with two on and two out. He jumped on a fastball and hit it over the fence in left field for a go-ahead, three-run homer, giving the Blues an 8-5 lead.
“I just tried to be on time to a heater,” Martinez said. “I got lucky, he threw it up into my wheelhouse and I caught it out in front.”
Ward continued to put up zeros, blanking the Prune Packers in the seventh and eighth innings. He finished 4.1 innings in relief, allowing three runs and striking out four to keep Healdsburg’s offense quiet.
The Blues added insurance late in the game. They got one run in the eighth on an RBI single by Clarkson, and three more in the ninth on a solo shot by Austin Kretzschmar (Stanford) and a two-run moonshot by Cermak, blowing this game open and making it 12-5 in favor of the Blues.
Healdsburg made it interesting in the ninth, scoring twice and threatening for more, but Zac McCleve (Utah) shut the door, getting Cole Elvis (Cal) to pop out to right field to end it.
With the win, San Luis Obispo will move on to the semifinals of the CCL State Championship, to be played tomorrow night at 7 pm PST. They will face the winner of tonight’s match-up between the second-seeded Arroyo Seco Saints and the third-seeded Lincoln Potters.
Player of the Game: Vince Martinez (SLO)
3-5, 2B, HR, 5 RBIs
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