| August 6, 2023
Photo Credit: Christina Thai
By CCL Reporter Dylan Wickman
The Healdsburg Prune Packers, defending CCL champions of the last two seasons, found themselves in vulnerable territory Saturday in George “Sparky” Anderson Field. They trailed 4-2 in the seventh inning with their hopes of a threepeat threatened to be washed away by the Arroyo Seco Saints, a team determined to taste the glory of a champion for the first time in franchise history. However, the Packers, knowing they had to leave all their chips on the table, came crashing back, scoring three runs in the inning before holding on to the crucial win to keep their season alive.
“We’re pretty good with our back against the wall,” Prune Packers head coach Joey Gomes said. “I told (the team) a couple of stories that we’re no strangers to this deal down here, that we have lost on the first day too many times, but sometimes adversity and pressure (makes) you come together, and the guys came together, and we played nine solid innings today.”
Healdsburg won 5-4 in a thrilling contest where both finalists displayed the dominance that got them here on both sides of the ball. The Prune Packers received contributions on offense from infielders Connor Charpiot (Long Beach State) and Hunter Dorraugh (San Jose State), who each had three hits and combined for three RBI, while the bullpen helped seal the deal. Infielder Spencer Rasmussen (Azusa Pacific University) was vital for the Saints' attack, going 2-for-4 with a home run, while RHP Hayden Lewis (New Mexico State) was just as important on the mound, throwing four shutout innings.
The Saints' momentum from the emphatic game 1 win immediately carried into this contest as they produced a statement start in the first inning. After infielder Raider Tello (Iowa) hit a double with one out remaining, fellow infielder Rasmussen crushed a ball 384 feet to put Arroyo Seco up two. Rasmussen, who batted a blistering .474 in his five regular season games, had given his squad a commanding early lead in the most important game of the season.
But the Packers, not to be outdone, utilized small ball to match the Saint's score in the bottom of the inning by producing two singles and a walk in the frame. It looked as though we would be in for a high-scoring affair between these two elite offenses, who were both top-four in runs scores this season The defenses of both squads went on lockdown for a considerable period to keep the scoring at bay.
The next four innings would see just five hits combined from both sides. The aforementioned Lewis and RHP Wyatt Tucker (Texas A&M) both recovered from their first-inning misfortunes to grind each offense to a halt. Lewis made his living with his fastball, consistently beating the Packers to the punch to keep runners off base. Tucker threw a variety of pitches to keep Arroyo Seco’s hitters off-balance and guessing. The two had five strikeouts a piece on the day and exerted tight control over the game.
But the momentum would again shift in the sixth inning, and it would be the Saints to take the initiative once more. Arroyo Seco put two runners on base with no outs and catcher Chase Meggers (Oregon) took advantage, lining an RBI single into right field that perfectly split the difference between the sideline and the first baseman, breaking the seal in the score. The Saints added another run via a sacrifice fly to give themselves a two-run cushion. Arroyo Seco now put themselves in a prime position to win the game and the season as they had been one step ahead of the defending champs throughout the series.
Tucker’s night was now finished, but Lewis would continue on the other end with his fastball that had been maneuvering around Healdsburg’s bats all day. The battle-tested Packers would not let him have it easy though and adapted well to his throws.
With one out remaining, outfielder Damian Bravo hit an important double for both his team and himself, as it drove in Healdsburg’s third run of the game and logged his first hit in seven games. Dorraugh followed it up with a single deep into right field that let Bravo race to home plate for the tying score, where he let out a primal roar. Dorraugh talked after the game about what he saw to prevail at this pivotal moment.
“I just understood that Lewis established his fastball early, and he established his fastball all game, and he was beating us with it, so I knew that he wanted to get ahead in that situation too,” Dorraugh said. “So I just felt like I needed to jump on it early, and luckily, it worked out.”
But the Packers were not done, as Charpiot, the league leader in batting average, hit a single that sailed over the outfield’s heads to drive in the run that let the Packers take the lead.
Now, it was the Saint's turn to respond to the Packers, and they put themselves in a position to do so in the ninth inning. Meggers hit a single to put runners on first and second base with only one out remaining, which set himself up to be the game-winning run. RHP Brian McBroom (New Mexico) did not let the pressure get to him though, and extinguished the Saint's last spark by drawing a flyout into right field.
The Prune Packers have now evened the series with their gutsy performance, and the two squads will meet tomorrow at the same place to settle the series and the 30th year of the CCL once and for all. Dorraugh detailed how Packer’s mindset will not change after the win today, just as it did not after the loss on Friday.
“We’ve got to go about our business the way we came at it today and the way we came at it yesterday and understand that it’s the last game of the summer,” Dorraugh said. “We got nothing to lose, so we might as well go home with a win,”
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