Baseball: Prune Packers top Stompers behind late home run in series opener
Dubbed the Wine Country Showdown, the first meeting of the season between Sonoma County’s two California Collegiate League baseball teams delivered an entertaining battle on a picture-perfect summer evening at Sonoma’s Arnold Field on Friday night.
The Healdsburg Prune Packers, the defending two-time CCL champs, used a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning off the bat of San Jose State’s Hunter Dorraugh and three quality innings out of the bullpen from Tulane’s Carter Benbrook to take Game 1 of their three-game series against the Sonoma Stompers 5-2 in front of a packed stadium of Sonoma faithful.
Dorraugh’s third bomb of the season broke a 2-2 tie and gave Benbrook more than enough room to work with. He struck out three and scattered four hits over the final three innings of the game to move the Packers to 21-3 overall and 14-3 atop the CCL North Division.
It was an especially appreciated result for the Packers following their first series loss of the summer to open the week. After starting the season 19-0 with a huge run differential, they dropped three of four games, including two of three against the Walnut Creek Crawdads earlier this week. They rebounded with a 7-0 win in the series finale over Walnut Creek before taking Friday’s series opener against the Stompers.
“What’s really a challenge for the college guys is at least creating an awareness that playing on the road is not the same as being at home, and we’ve been on the road a lot in June and I think we’re starting to get a little more acclimated to it,” Packers head coach Joey Gomes said. “It was a slow start, but you can’t hit the panic button; just trust the guys you brought. A couple homers late put us ahead and Carter Benbrook just pitched with guts tonight.”
Dorraugh’s shot to deep center was one of two home runs the Packers hit Friday, both after a relatively quiet start offensively.
Scoreless after three innings, the Packers drew first blood in the fourth with an RBI groundout from Washington State’s Kyle Russell before the Stompers retook the lead with solo home runs in the fourth and fifth, courtesy of Chico State’s Xabi Ippaguirre and University of San Francisco’s Tyler Martinez, respectively.
The Packers came right back to tie the game in the top of the sixth on a one-out RBI single from Arizona’s Black McDonald before Dorraugh gave them the lead for good in the seventh. Houston’s Cameron Nickens added a solo shot in the eighth for good measure.
“Just got a good pitch to hit,” Dorraugh said of his home run. “They were playing infield in, so my No. 1 goal was to try and hit the ball to the outfield and luckily I kind of ran into one and it kind of went over the fence.”
Packers starter Vaughn Mauterer, a rising senior at Cal, struck out six with no walks, three hits and an earned run over his four innings of work.
Stompers started Hawk Hill also took a no-decision, going 3⅔ innings with four hits, a run and three strikeouts.
The Stompers are a growing program in the CCL. They joined the league last summer after playing in the independent Pacific Coast League for years.
Head coach Zack Pace, who also managed the club when it was an independent, said he’s encouraged by the trajectory of the program.
“We got a good group of guys,” he said. “We’ve been playing pretty clean for the most part. Obviously there’s always room for improvement, right? But I think we’ve been playing good baseball and the plan is to keep on getting better each day.”
Friday’s loss dropped the Stompers to 14-11 overall and 7-9 in the CCL North, while the Packers extended their lead atop the standings to 2½ games.
The Wine Country Showdown series will conclude with two more games this weekend. First pitch for Saturday is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Rec Park in Healdsburg, with the series finale set to start at 1 p.m. Sunday back at Arnold Field.
You can reach Staff Writer Gus Morris at 707-304-9372 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JustGusPD.