Prune Packers Return to CCL State Championship for Third Consecutive Time with 10-7 Win Over Crawdads

| August 3, 2023

Photo Credit: Prune Packers

By Sam Nute

A little less than a week ago, on July 27, the Healdsburg Prune Packers exited Walnut Creek after a sweep knocked them out of first place in the CCL North Division for the first time since the beginning of the season. Six days later, the two teams faced off with a trip to the CCL 30 State Championship on the line. 

The last three years have been a period of Healdsburg Prune Packer dominance in the North Division. However, the Walnut Creek Crawdads proved to be a thorn in the side of the Prune Packers in 2023, winning five of the teams’ seven regular season matchups and pushing the North Division regular season title to the final day. 

Despite the push, the Prune Packers came out on top in the regular season by just half a game. In the North Divisional Round, Healdsburg set the record straight with a controlling 10-7 win, holding off a late charge from the Cardiac Crawdads and securing a chance to defend Healdsburg’s back-to-back CCL Championships. 

One thing the Crawdads had been very good at against the Prune Packers all season was stifling the dangerous Healdsburg lineup. In the regular season, the Packers scored 8.1, an average of runs per game, but against Walnut Creek, the Packers’ run production was cut in half to just 4.2 runs per game.

Making only his third appearance for the Prune Packers, RHP Pierce George (Texas) got the ball to start the game. However, George allowed the Crawdads to get on the board first, thanks to a passed ball. Healdsburg answered back in the bottom of the inning, scratching a run across against Crawdad starter RHP Dylan McShane (Oregon) on a balk. 

Over the next four innings, it was all Prune Packers as they raced out to an 8-1 lead, scoring multiple runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings. Outfielder Cameron Nickens (Houston) started multiple of the Prune Packers rallies and finished the night going 2-for-5 with a triple and an RBI. UTL Peyton Schulze (Cal) and catcher Kimble Schuessler both had good nights finishing with four hits and two RBI combined.

The stars of the show for the Prune Packers were undoubtedly ace LHP Myles Patton (Long Beach State) and OF/IF Ivan Brethowr (UC Santa Barbara). In the regular season, Patton was one of the feature arms on the Prune Packers staff, leading the team with 39 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

Relieving George after just 1.1 innings, Patton danced through 6.1 scoreless innings, escaping multiple dangerous situations and striking out nine Crawdads. Walnut Creek shortstop Matt King (UTSA) hit a three-run homer, giving Patton three earned runs on his line, but by then, the Prune Packers had raced out to a seven-run lead. 

Brethowr joined the Prune Packers midway through the season and, since then, has been arguably their best player. In 39 bats, Brethowr slugged five homers and two doubles, slashing an eye-popping .359/.432/.795. On Wednesday, it was no different. After King’s homerun cut the lead to four in the top of the eighth, Brethowr slugged a two-run shot for his sixth home run of the year, extending the Prune Packer lead to six runs. He finished the night going 2-for-3 with a homer, a double, two RBI and three runs scored.

Throughout the season, the Crawdads adopted the nickname ‘Cardiac Crawdads’ for their propensity to never be quite out of a game. Down six in the ninth, they made for one more push as infielder Ryan Ellis (Texas Arlington) hit a bases-clearing three-RBI double to cut the lead in half, but that was all, ending the game 10-7. 

Finishing the season with a 25-10 record, 2023 was one of the best years in Crawdad franchise history, taking the North Division down to the final day and winning their first playoff game since 2014. 

Back in familiar territory, the Prune Packers return to the CCL State Championship for the third straight year, attempting to defend their back-to-back titles. Their opponent is the Arroyo Seco Saints, who beat the Orange County Riptide 1-0 in the South Divisional Round. Game One is Friday, August 4, at 6:05 pm, at Jackie Robinson Memorial Field in Pasadena, CA.

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