Sonoma Stompers pitcher just 3rd woman to win pro game
Sonoma Stompers manager Takashi Miyoshi wears a necklace with a small “42” charm. Any true baseball fan knows that’s a number signifying immense importance.
Miyoshi respects the historic path blazed by the man who wore that number, the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson, in becoming Major League Baseball’s first African-American player in 1947.
Miyoshi has forged a track as well, two years ago becoming the first Japanese-born manager in the history of American professional baseball.
So it was with some degree of appreciation that late last week the Stompers manager added another line to the history books by starting female pitcher Stacy Piagno in the independent league game.
Starting the 26-year-old right-hander wasn’t a stunt. It’s not because she’s a girl.
She earned it.
And she won. Her catcher even said “she dominated.”
Piagno, of St. Augustine, Florida, and a gold-medal winner with the U.S. women’s national baseball team in the 2015 Pan-Am Games, became just the third woman since the 1950s to win an American men’s professional baseball game.
“I’m not just out here for a hoax,” she said afterward.
In seven solid innings, the 5-9, 165-pound right-hander allowed just one run and four hits while striking out four and not allowing a walk. The Stompers trounced the Pittsburg Diamonds, 16-1.
Piagno allowed only one hit after the second inning and retired 20 of the final 22 batters she faced.
It was “a great night for Stacy and a fantastic night for baseball,” Stompers general manager Theo Fightmaster said.
“This was a start she’s been preparing for, and she validated the opportunity she was given. That was an incredible performance against a very tough lineup.”
The Stompers are playing good baseball. They already clinched the league’s first-half title with a record of 28-11, giving Miyoshi a little more breathing room to pencil in Piagno, who’d had only a couple relief appearances this year.
It is Piagno’s second season on the Stompers.
Last year, the team signed Piagno, a pitcher and infielder, and outfielder-pitcher Kelsie Whitmore, then 17 and just out of a Temecula high school, to contracts to play in Sonoma. Whitmore, who plays on the women’s national baseball team with Piagno, just finished her freshman year on a softball scholarship at Cal State Fullerton.
Some suspected the signing of the women was a publicity stunt — common enough in the minor leagues, known for sometimes-crazy promotions and wacky fan-engagement antics.
But both women still play for the team.
The Stompers have broken multiple social barriers. Along with Miyoshi’s hiring, two years ago, the team started pitcher Sean Conroy — who became the first openly gay player to ever play professional baseball.
The team let those milestones pass quietly, announcing them afterward.
You can just go for the media attention, or do it the right way, Fightmaster said.
“This was validation,” he said. “It provided some credibility not just for her but for the organization.”
The move to go co-ed came in part from a sponsorship the team entered into with Francis Ford Coppola’s Virginia Dare Winery in Geyserville.
Coppola has said his family played co-ed sports and he wanted to find opportunities to help women get a chance in pro baseball.