| August 6, 2022
(SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA) – Day two of the CCL State Championship presented by Firestone Walker Brewing Company ended with a highly-anticipated matchup featuring the #1-seeded Conejo Oaks and #2-seeded Healdsburg Prune Packers. The game was up for grabs until Healdsburg’s offense came to life, notching 11 runs in the final five innings on the way to a dominant 13-4 victory.
The Pack didn’t skip a beat, as Zach Vooletich (Texas Tech) drew a walk before advancing to second thanks to a balk. Joey Kramer (CSU – Northridge) then knocked a double into deep right field, allowing Vooletich to score and helping Healdsburg draw first blood for the second straight game.
While much of the focus was on both teams’ explosive offenses, it was pitching that stole the show early in this one. Healdsburg’s Marvcus Guarin (Pacific) was dialed in from the get-go, tossing two strikeouts in the first inning to keep Conejo off the board.
Oaks’ starter Michael Alan Stanford (College of the Desert) countered Guarin with a lights-out second inning, picking up three K’s while walking a single Prune Packer.
In the third, Jake Holcroft (Portland) was walked and Joey Kramer singled to put runners on first and second. Braydon Runion (New Mexico) smacked a grounder that Conejo shortstop Gavin Grant (Oregon) was unable to corral, buying Holcroft enough time to cross the dish and put the Prune Packers up 2-0.
Stanford continued to dominate on the mound, fanning five Packers in the third and fourth frames to keep the deficit at two. In 4.0 innings on the hill, the left-hander from Thousand Oaks, Calif. recorded nine strikeouts, three hits and two earned runs.
While both teams’ bats were mostly quiet throughout the first five innings, the Prune Packers blew the game wide open in a wild sixth frame. Kimble Schuessler (Texas) and Sam Hunt (Kansas) reached base via walks before an error by Oaks’ reliever Daniel Veloz (LA Valley College) cleared the way for Schuessler to score.
A two-run blast from Jake Holcroft capped off a three-spot and increased the lead to 5-0. Holcroft explained once he got ahead of the count, he was looking for a fastball and simply tried to put a good swing on the 1-0 pitch.
“I got two balls, so I got ahead of the count... I was looking fastball, got a fastball and luckily put a good swing on it,” said Holcroft.
In the bottom of the sixth, Gavin Grant drew a walk and capitalized on an error by Prune Packers’ shortstop Lauden Brooks (Texas Tech) to make it to third. A sacrifice fly by Zach Daudet (Regis) drove in Grant and dashed Healdsburg’s shutout hopes.
However, the Packers responded during the seventh as Braydon Runion and Sam Brown (Washington State) were walked. Runion made it a 6-1 game when he advanced to third on a fielder’s choice before scoring his second run of the postseason due to an errant throw by Oaks’ reliever Wesley De La Torre (Uncommitted).
Healdsburg’s offense kept rolling in the next inning. Lauden Brooks, Jake Holcroft and Zach Vooletich quickly loaded the bases, and Joey Kramer’s second walk of the contest scored Brooks. Runion then knocked a sacrifice fly into right field to bring in another run.
Sam Brown was walked for the second time of the evening to re-load the bases before Kimble Schuessler sent a grand slam sailing down the left-field line to put his team up by 11. The second-year Prune Packer explained he planned to get a swing off, and was fortunate to take a whack at a juicy pitch.
“I just went up there knowing I was going to get my swing off,” said Schuessler. “I got my swing off and got a good pitch to hit, and got a good result.”
The Packers added one more in the ninth courtesy of an RBI single by Braydon Runion. Conejo wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, as Jack Brooks (Oregon), Zachary Crandall (Orange Coast College) and Gavin Grant all scored runs in the tail-end of the inning. But the Oaks’ efforts proved too little and too late, as closer Caden Bugarske (Concordia) was able to put the finishing touches on a 13-4 win for Healdsburg.
With the victory, the Prune Packers have punched their ticket to the CCL State Championship for the second straight season. Following the game, Packers’ manager Joey Gomes had a simple message for fans in the ‘Burg, saying, “We’re going to empty the tank tomorrow.”
Conejo will now face the Orange County Riptide on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. PST. The winner will earn the right to face Healdsburg in the CCL’s title game, which is set to begin at 6:00 p.m. PST. Stay up-to-date on all the action by following the CCL on Instagram and Twitter, or tuning into the league’s YouTube broadcast.
Player of the Game: Kimble Schuessler (Texas)
2-4, 2 R, 4 RBI, Grand Slam
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