Healdsburg Prune Packers hold off Walnut Creek, return to league championship series

For the third consecutive year, the Packers are headed to the California Collegiate League finale.|

For the third consecutive year, the Healdsburg Prune Packers are headed to the California Collegiate League championship series.

Wednesday’s victory that got them there wasn’t easy, however, as the “Pack” survived a ninth-inning rally by the visiting Walnut Creek Crawdads for a 10-7 win and the CCL North title.

The Crawdads had beaten the Packers four out of the seven times they met in the regular season, but in the end, it was Healdsburg that won when it mattered most.

“Winning any level of championship is not easy; that’s why you have to play nine innings,” Prune Packers manager Joey Gomes said. “Certainly, the Crawdads aren’t going to give up and roll over, clearly that happened tonight. I think it really lit a spark, and I’m looking forward to going down to Southern California and once again empty the clip on it.”

After the Crawdads opened the scoring in the top of the first, the Packers answered right back. Robbie Hamchuk hit a triple to center field on the first pitch of the bottom of the frame, before a balk scored him.

Healdsburg continued the scoring in the second inning, with big Ivan Brethowr causing all sorts of problems for Walnut Creek. He stretched a leadoff single all the way to third and then scored on a Cameron Nickens single to left. Peyton Schulze reached base with a single of his own, and the Packers were in business with one out.

Nickens would then score on a wild pitch to give the hosts a 3-1 lead. They would score twice more in the fourth and three times in the fifth to grow that advantage to 8-1.

The Crawdads, having enough problems on defense, weren’t doing anything on offense, either. That’s because CCL All-Star Myles Patton was shutting them down from the mound, and fast.

Patton entered in the top of the second and went 3⅔ innings strong, striking out six and only allowing three hits. He earned the win for his outing.

“I was just trying to keep my team in it,” Patton said. “I knew they were going to be a good team we were playing against, and I just wanted to compete out there and try and keep us in the game.”

But the Crawdads weren’t done. They scored three runs in the top of the eighth to make it 8-4. Luckily for Healdsburg, the Packers had an answer in Brethowr.

With one out, one on and a full count, Brethowr launched a two-run moonshot to left field to give Healdsburg another cushion. The score was now 10-4, and it looked like the dagger had sunk in.

But Walnut Creek scored another three runs in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-7. Brian McBroom, who was on the bump for Healdsburg, then struck out the final two batters to close it out.

The Prune Packers will now head to Southern California to play in this weekend’s championship series against the CCL South champion, the Arroyo Seco Saints. The Saints were 1-0 winners over the Orange County Riptide in Wednesday’s other game.

The best-of-three series starts Friday night, followed by a game Saturday and another Sunday if necessary.

“We’re going to treat it like anything else,” Gomes said of the series. “We’re going to come down and give it everything we got.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kienan O’Doherty at 415-887-8650 or kienan.odoherty@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kodoherty22.

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