Blake Bass (Texas Tech University)
Looking to defeat the San Francisco Seals in their final matchup of the season, the Neptune Beach Pearl put their bats to work to win 14-3 and take the series, improving their season record to 13-2, and stand alone at the top of the Far West League at 6-1.
The action started early as center fielder Joe Moroney (University of Kansas) hit a single off the first pitch of the game and left fielder Roger Boulden (Chico State) followed up with a single of his own on the next play, with both players stealing bases on a throw. Designated hitter Bob Cruikshank (University of San Francisco) continued his streak of solid hitting with an RBI double to give the Pearl the first lead of the game, before catcher Peter Creamer (Eastern New Mexico) hit an RBI single to make it 3-0 in the first.
The hitting slowed until the fourth inning, when Moroney capitalized on right fielder Alan Baldwin’s (University of Hawaii) single and stole base to smash in a RBI double, before making an incredible steal of his own to reach third. Cruikshank again came up big with an RBI double to make it 5-2 Pearl. First baseman Blake Bass (Texas Tech) crushed his first home run of the season, scoring himself and Cruikshank to make it 7-2. “It’s a great feeling getting the first out one of the way,” Bass said. “I just got the barrel on it.” From there, the Seals just couldn’t catch up as the Pearl continued to dominate at the plate. The fifth inning saw Cruikshank hit another RBI double off the center fielder’s misread of the ball. Second baseman Eddie Mora (Sierra College) had his chance to shine as he hit his own RBI double in the 6th. “It was one of those nights that when we made contact, the balls fell,” Coach Brant Cummings said.
Defensively, the Pearl looked solid as third baseman Oscar Aguirre (Florida International) made a terrific throw to first for the out, and shortstop Richie Johnson (San Jose State) had a beautiful diving catch in the fifth to keep the Pearl out of danger. For starting pitcher Daniel Hancock, that defense helped make a difference. “I’m a ground ball pitcher so I try to get a lot of ground balls,” Hancock said. “I don’t rely on the strikeout. The better defense I have, the better I pitch.” Based on his final stats, it’s clear that his defense was there to help him refocus and soldier on.
Though the Pearl maintained a comfortable lead, they continued to excel offensively. Boulden hit an RBI double in the seventh to score Moroney before Cruikshank and Bass joined him in the infield to load the bases. Aguirre sent another run home with an RBI walk and Johnson smacked in a 2 RBI single to seal the final score at 14-2.
Right hander Daniel Hancock (University of South Florida) got off to a shaky start, giving up two runs in the first innings, but settled down and worked his way through five innings, giving up five hits and one walk, and striking out three. “The thing that I’m really excited about is Danny Hancock after a rough inning when he gave up two runs and they swung the bats against him pretty hard, settled down and didn’t allow another run for four innings,” Cummings said. “[I’m] Really impressed with him, he’s shown progression from his very first outing in San Rafael 2 ½ weeks ago to now.” Despite his rough beginning, Hancock managed to recover and was pleased with his outing. “I’m not an overpowering pitcher so I have to use my offspeed and my changeup wasn’t working in the first but it was working really well through the next four so that helped out a lot,” Hancock said. Following him on the mound was right hander Bret Hartnett (Seattle University) who got the Pearl through the seventh; after that came Jake Chutney (Seattle University) in the eighth, who made way for right hander Tyler Cobb (Chabot College) who threw a scoreless ninth.
The Pearl now hit the road, facing the Redding Colt 45s and the Southern Oregon River Dawgs, both of whom will likely prove to be tough competitors. “Both of these are really good teams,” Cummings said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.” Their next home game is July 5th against the Sacramento Legends.