Saints Inch Closer to First CCL State Championship in Franchise History with 7-3 Win Over Prune Packers.

| August 5, 2023

Photo Credit: Sonny Tapia

By Sam Nute

The Championship of every sport is the exclamation point to each season. Two teams meet at the end of a long regular season to decide it all. For the CCL’s 30th year, the CCL 30 State Championship has finally gotten underway, with the North Division Champion Healdsburg Prune Packers taking on the host and South Division Champion Arroyo Seco Saints. 

Winning back-to-back CCL League Championships, the Prune Packers are no strangers to this big stage and are attempting to be the first CCL team to three-peat since before 2013. The Saints are on the opposite end of the spectrum, making their first CCL League Championship appearance in franchise history. 

After going down early, the Saints, playing at home in Pasadena for the final time in 2023, defeated the Prune Packers 7-3 to take Game 1. 

“I didn’t really say much because I wanted this to be just like another game,” Saints head coach Aaron Milam said about his pregame message. “We get to play a home game at our place, and I didn’t really change the message. It’s ‘Win the Week’”

The first game of any baseball series is where both teams throw their best arms available. That was definitely the case for the Prune Packers, who threw left-handed pitcher Chris Stamos (Tennessee). After leading the CCL in strikeouts for the Saints in 2022, Stamos spent the summer in Healdsburg and continued his dominance. In 23 innings pitched, Stamos had a 0.78 ERA, allowing just two runs all season and striking out 34. 

On the mound for the Saints was righty Caleb Reyes (Cal Poly Pomona), who had a great season of his own. In seven starts, Reyes pitched to the tune of a 1.73 ERA, striking out 22 across 26 innings pitched and walking just five batters. 

After both starters pitched a clean first, it was the Prune Packers who drew blood first thanks to an RBI single from infielder Peyton Schulze (Cal) followed by an RBI double from infielder Travis Sanders (Texas Tech). One inning later, second baseman Hunter Dorraugh (San Jose State) parked one over the wall in left-center field, and the Prune Packers were up three after three. 

Through three innings, Stamos had struck out three and was cruising. However, that came to an end in the fourth as the Saints scored five runs, tripling Stamos’ runs allowed on the season. Arroyo Seco put the first four batters of the inning on base, including an RBI single from catcher Chase Meggers (Oregon). 

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Stamos was able to get the next two batters out by way of two strikeouts, but outfielder Connor Bradshaw (Pepperdine) crushed a grand slam over the right field fence, putting the Saints up 5-3.

“My first two at-bats, I was getting in my head and a little out in front,” Bradshaw said. “That at-bat, first pitch, I think I missed a fastball, and I was kind of sitting slider. Then he kind of hung a slider, and I just took a good swing at it.”

Armed with a two-run lead, Reyes settled down on the mound, limiting the damage to those three runs. He finished the night with 6.0 innings pitched, allowing eight hits but walking none and striking out three. 

Limited in pitching options this late in the season, Milam was hoping to get through the game with as few pitches as possible, so he handed the ball to his best weapon out of the pen. 

Right-handed pitcher Jacob Henderson (Iowa) was lights out in the regular season. In the regular season, Henderson amazingly allowed zero runs across 15 innings while surrendering just two baserunners all season and striking out 24. Making his first appearance since July 18th, Henderson was just as advertised, throwing three dominant innings, striking out three, and giving up just one hit. 

“I really just try to fill up the zone and just let the hitters do what they are gonna do,” Henderson said. “Once the ball is out of my hands, I can’t control it anymore, so I always let my defense work, and they did a great job as they have all season. That’s really all I try to do every time. 

“Jacob Henderson hasn’t given up a run all year, and that’s the second hit he’s given up all year,” Milam said. “He’s been absolutly lights out, and for us to be able to bring him in there to stop was huge (...) He’s got eyes of steel. He’s him, and he’s kind of loose and happy-go-lucky. Nothing really fazes him.”

The Saints added two more runs in the seventh, and Henderson earned the save as he closed out the 7-3 win. 

Friday was Milam’s birthday, and most Saints staff, friends and family were walking around postgame with birthday hats dawning their heads. Milam doesn’t see the point in celebrating because ‘I wanna get younger and not older,’ but besides that, he knows that the job isn’t finished. Going into Game 2, the message remains the same as before. Win the Week.

“We got to Wednesday against the Riptide, and it was ‘Win the Week,’” Milam said. “Now we have won two games, but we still have one more to go and Win the Week.”

Game 2 and the chance for the Saints to Win the Week will be Saturday, Aug. 5th at 2:00 pm PST in Thousand Oaks at Cal Lutheran University. 

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